Steven J. Burge and Damon Guerrasio deliver an entertaining Love Child
A few days after I've seen Love Child, the notes on my pad — a mix of observations, reminders and actual quotes — make absolutely no sense.
"I have no name."
"Xander's in a trance."
Presented by the Avenue Theater through July 7, 417 East 17th Avenue, 303-321-5915, www.avenuetheater.com.
"You're firing me? Your own mother?"
"Chef from Greece...big knife..."
"She never screwed Richard."
"I am your family."
What's more, whenever I look over these notes, that song about the old ladies locked in the lavatory starts running frantically through my head: "Oh, dear, what can the matter be? Seven old ladies locked in the lavatory. They were there from Sunday to Saturday. Nobody knew they were there." And yet I could swear I understood the play perfectly well while I was watching it. Well, most of the time.
Love Child is about a couple of amateur actors who decide to stage a modernization of Euripides's Ion in a sausage factory. There must be a reason for this, but I never quite caught it. We get to see them backstage and on stage. We meet the father of one of them, his mother (though we don't at first know it), his agent and the agent's sister. Also several fellow actors and a few other people — 26 characters in all, and every one of them played by only two actors: Steven J. Burge and Damon Guerrasio, who work on an almost bare stage with six chairs. The agent, Ethel, is in the audience for the play, along with her sister, Kay, and Kay is every actor's nightmare: the kind of audience member who sighs, talks loudly, fidgets, answers her phone, and every now and then gets so involved in the action that she has to join in. Through the genius of playwrights Daniel Jenkins and Robert Stanton, both professional actors as well as writers, the same actor is both the irritated on-stage performer and the irritant in the audience, which means he has to move himself — and our focus — back and forth constantly between the two perspectives.
The evening can seem chaotic, but in fact the script is meticulously structured, and the production is skillfully orchestrated by director Nick Sugar. The action follows a narrative line that actually does make sense, though in a completely lunatic way. I got lost now and then (What just happened? Wait a minute — he's playing who right now?) but recovered my balance easily, and those few seconds of uncertainty carried an exhilaration of their own. I kept thinking this must be how a mountain goat feels at the apex of those dizzying leaps from one foothold to another.
Steven Burge, who has experience playing multiple roles, having appeared as the harassed switchboard operator in Fully Committed three years back, is funny, sweet and intense. He's matched by Guerrasio, who is also very funny and has a background in rock music as well as acting. Both men handle the floods of dialogue and the split-second timing with aplomb. Pratfalls can be tedious, but Guerrasio has several, and he manages to make every single one of them funny.
That is, once he's out of the lavatory. And there's nothing the matter with that.
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