Love Song | Melbourne Theatre CompanyJohn Kolvenbach’s play Love Song comes bearing rapturous overseas reviews, and it does provide some good roles. Directed by Craig Ilott, this production has the strong talents of Greg Stone, Caroline Craig, Julia Zemiro and Thomas Wright, and the script certainly needs performers of this calibre.

The London Sunday Times pretentiously proclaims it a Jungian comedy… it's about how to find yourself, re-create, mutilate, enrich yourself. Really? This is the set-up. Shuffling around his blank apartment, Beane, the introverted, quasi-hobo who lives with barely a spoon or chair, one day meets a robber, Molly, who threatens, attracts, fascinates and somehow liberates him. Soon he is running around and declaring to all who will listen that the secret of life is sexual intercourse. (Well, it has its place). His fiercely type-A sister and frantic brother-in-law are also affected by Beane’s transmogrification, and tentatively rediscover some of the lyricism and sensuality now smothered by decades of trading volleys of smart aleck New Yorkish one-liners.

But when a play’s central idea is transformation, the metamorphoses had better be smooth and convincing, and here they are simply implausible. If there has been insufficient preparation, not enough time to know and like somebody, there can be something obvious and dull about their sudden rise to bliss, and here the transition is much too fast, too glib, at first even relegated to a scene change. The intention is plain but, to persuade, the effect needs to be slower, deeper, more thoughtful, perhaps using music. Beane has more integrity, is just more interesting when he follows his dignified non-materialism and determined simplicity, than after his ‘I’ve seen the light! Life is for living!’ moment.

I also couldn’t help asking awkward questions like: how come Beane and sister Joan are so different? and how do they get on after all these years? who pays for Beane’s apartment? but such queries are of course not only avoided, but fatal to this sort of frothy fantasy. Thomas Wright capably plays Beane with the requisite introversion, as well as the later exuberance, Julia Zemiro and Greg Stone do the extremely crude, Manhattan touché dialogue with suitable zest and aggression, and Caroline Craig manages the feisty robber and unlikely change agent with energy and skill. This excellent cast cannot finally rescue the fey story line or pseudo-cosmic platitudes, however, and Love Song, straining for significance, does not deliver.

Melbourne Theatre Company presents The Australian Premiere of
Love Song
by John Kolvenbach

Venue: the Arts Centre | Fairfax Studio
Dates: 5 March 2008 - 19 April 2008
Performance Schedule: Mon & Tue 6.30pm (3 & 4 Mar 8pm), Wed 1pm & 8pm (no mat 5 Mar), Thu & Fri 8pm (no perf 21 Mar), Sat 4pm & 8.30pm (1 Mar 2 & 8pm)
Bookings: 1300 136 166

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