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Love Song' is a serious kind of comedy that delays audience affection



Love Song
7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Carpenter Square Theatre
Arena Theater, Stage Center
400 W. Sheridan
$19, $16 seniors/military

Carpenter Square Theatre advertises John Kolvenbach's "Love Song" by as an "offbeat comedy," but the first act is about the dullest 58 minutes of comedy that you'll find this side of Neil Simon's "Rumors."

Turns out that the play is an hour and 45 minutes of setup for about 20 minutes of payoff. Surprisingly, however, the CST production, which ends its run at the Stage Center's Arena Theater this week, is, in the end, rather satisfying.

A comedy, "Love Song" is not. For one thing, it's not funny, and for another, the subject matter, which is not revealed fully until well into Act 2, is of the utmost seriousness.

That's not to say that characters are not comedic. The story concerns Beane (Sean Eckart), an oddball whose apartment, wardrobe and manner reflect a life of neurotic austerity. One day, he comes home to find a strange intruder named Molly (Rachel Morgan) in his apartment wearing his clothes.

The other people in Beane's life are his sister, Joan (Misti Pryor), and brother-in-law, Harry (Brent Weber). Beane, with his Moe Howard haircut and horn-rimmed glasses, may be geeky, but Joan is downright nutty. You know someone just like her. And Harry loves to egg her on.

In retrospect, one sees how Kolvenbach drops hints about the characters and obscures them at the same time. Inanimate objects behaving in strange ways, Beane's sudden hypersensitivity and a few well-placed red herrings all contribute to the playwright's well-worked-out, if not exactly original, story line.

Speaking of inanimate objects, Charlotte Rose's costumes are spot-on. For the bedroom scene with Beane and Molly, in which they improvise a fantastical story, the couple not only wear matching blue-checked pajamas, but also socks with holes in the right toe. This is significant, believe it or not.

Eckart has become the pleasant surprise of the theatrical season. As Beane, he is much more exposed than he was in the costume-comedy "Stage Beauty." He's terrific; one hopes to see him more and in a variety of roles.

Rhonda Clark directs, and she and Caleb Schnackenberg designed the set. One end of the stage is Beane's apartment, while the other end is the apartment of Joan and Harry.

Kolvenbach had a good idea for a play. He gets it about two-fifths right. "Love Song" would be more engaging for the audience if the payoff had come earlier, so we could experience what Beane is going through along with him. "?Larry Laneer


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