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Love, Love, Love

by Elizabeth Ahlfors

Richard Armitage, Amy Ryan, Ben Rosenfield and Zoe Kazan in Mike Bartlett's comedy-drama Love, Love, Love. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Richard Armitage, Amy Ryan, Ben Rosenfield and Zoe Kazan in Mike Bartlett's comedy-drama Love, Love, Love. Photo: Joan Marcus.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors

Cheers to Mike Bartlett's critical look at the rise and fall of a generation over the soundtrack of the Beatles' song, "All You Need is Love."  Playwright Bartlett examined a generational divide from past and present viewpoints in Charles III.  At the  Laura Pels Theater, the Roundabout's production's dark comic tragedy of Love, Love, Love, Bartlett explores the self-centered milieu of the 1960's to the present.  

Bartlett follows a template of two self-involved swingers in 1967 and how their values influence their future offspring.  Guideposts from the baby boomers, the Me Generation, and the Millennials, emerge shining with palpable irony and under Mike Mayer's direction, five razor sharp cast members portray characters who are well-carved, poked at and picked apart for detailed authenticity. 

In three acts with two intermissions, we first meet Oxford students, sharp, confident Sandra (Amy Ryan) and Kenneth (Richard Armitage).  They are students at Oxford.  Sandra is currently dating Kenneth's conservative brother, Henry, who is not seen again after this scene.  His girlfriend decides she prefers Kenneth's playful lifestyle and with change in the air,  Sandra and Kenneth set off together to meet their future.

In the second act two decades later, Sandra and Kenneth are married and living in the suburbs with two teenagers and some accumulated baggage.  They are feeling trapped.  The egocentricity of the '60's has not dampened their selfishness, to the detriment of their listless, ignored children, Jamie (Ben Rosenfield) and Rose (Zoe Kazan).  As their parents admit cheating on each other, Jamie is treading the edges of drugs and drink, and Rose, sullen with anger and disappointment, watches her family fall apart as she and Jamie slip into the cracks. 

In the third act, Sandra and Kenneth are amicably divorced, although their children bear the wreckage of their self-involved values and loose parenting.  Jamie has not amounted to much.  When Rose asks her parents for money to buy a house, they refuse.  She blames them for their narcissistic lifestyle, blasting, "You didn’t change the world, you bought it. Privatized it. What did you stand for? Peace? Love? Nothing except being able to do whatever the fuck you wanted.”  

Her father responds, "Why the hell did you take any notice of what we told you? You’re supposed to rebel." 

Bartlett's smart dialogue and efficient touches of comedy aside, it is difficult to like these complex characters deftly directed by Mayer (American Idiot).  Like them or not, however, it is compelling watching these pros cast their cruelty and react to it.  Amy Ryan (A Street Named Desire) is peerless as Sandra who lives by the fierce belief, "We’re entitled to do our own thing, follow our own path, no one can tell us what’s right.”  Armitage, in his Broadway debut, tosses out Kenneth's seductive charm that illustrates his weaknesses even as his aimless son sees him as a role model.  Zoe Kazan (The Seagull), always an intuitive actor, does not make a wrong move as Rose either as an awkward teen or a disappointed 37-year-old.  She has been engulfed in a black dour mood, living in misery and not seeing any way of getting out of it by herself.  

Derek McLane designed three sets of distinct economic status, from a shabby '60's pad to the final upscale country home.  Susan Hilferty dresses Sandra in chic, up-to-date clothes, just as Rose remains wrapped in drab.  Lighting by David Lander and sound by Kai Harado cast different moods over the years.  

"Love is all you need," says the last line of the Beatles song.  Is it really?


Love, Love, Love
By Mike Bartlett
Directed By Michael Mayer

Previews: Sept. 22, 2016.   Opens Oct. 19, 2016. Closes Dec. 18, 2016.

Laura Pels Theatre.  111 West 46th Street, NYC

Running time: Two hours. 10 minutes.  Two intermissions

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors