2/7/2020        5 COURSE LOVE                               Marietta Theatre Company

 

TAPAS   --    MAYBE LESS

(Bias Alert:  I have worked with Marietta Theatre Company and director Stephanie Earle and hope to do so again someday.  I even get a program “Thank you” for this one for helping with some venue-specific lighting questions.)

 

Greg Coffin’s 5 Course Love, now onstage at the Marietta’s Alley Stage in a lively production by the Marietta Theatre Company, is a pale I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change clone that tries to whimsically examine all the aspects of love in a series of (seemingly) unrelated sketches featuring couples sharing a night out over food and drink.  The gimmick here is that the same three actors play the man, the woman, and the waiter in all five “courses.”

 

To be sure, MTC has cast three extraordinarily talented performers who jump from character to character with apparent ease, and the show has been staged (and designed) with skill and energy, proving to be a real crowd-pleaser.  True, the songs are stick-in-the-ear bouncy (if, in some cases, going on too long), with the style cleverly catered to the particular restaurant currently on the menu (and, in fact, I’m listening to the original Off-Broadway cast recording even now).  And, admittedly, there are many moments of joy and many laughs as the sketches skate to an inevitable (that is, predicable) conclusion.

All this being said, I have to rate this in the “Liked it Didn’t Love it” thumb drive of “Near Miss” musicals.  Let me describe each courses; see if you can spot the (many) weaknesses of this libretto.

 

Course # 1 -- All-American Down-Home Bar-B-Que Texas Eats

Matt is stuck in traffic on his way to a blind date.  Well, on the way to an on-line hook-up app date at a local sushi restaurant.  Much to his chagrin the sushi place has moved its wasabi out of town and has been replaced with a Bar-B-Que juke joint. When his date, Barbie, arrives, it is lust at first sight.  Waiter Dean brings them every clichéd unappetizing Tex-Mex dish ever created, and the date is well on its way to a spicy conclusion until it is revealed that {Deleted by the Spoiler Police}.  Talk about your BBQ-block!  (Musical style is Rockabilly)

 

Course # 2 -- Trattoria Pericolo

In this scene from an Italian Restaurant, Sofia is a mob  wife, living in fear of her cruel husband.  She is “carrying on” with Gino, her husband’s rival.  Waiter Carlo tries to keep his head low and his cannoli fresh.  Will it all end like a scene out of The Godfather?  Don’t ask.  (Musical style is an amalgam of Italian Operetta and Rat Pack Vegas). 

 

Course # 3 --  Der Schlupfwinkel Speiseplatz,

A waiter (Heimlich), his dominatrix liebe-frau (Gretchen), and the flamboyant “kept man” beloved of them both (Klaus) in a pas de deux of forbidden lust.  What can possibly go wrong?  And, cheap laugh alert, you know there will be coughing anytime Heimlich’s name is mentioned,  (Musical Style is German Cabaret Lieder ala Marlene Dietrich)

 

Course # 4 -- Ernesto’s Cantina,

A self-aggrandizing bandit (Guillermo) and his rival (Ernesto) musically duel for the hand of Rosalinda.  Will she choose the manly bandit or the gentle waiter?  (Musical Style is Mexican Heroic Ballade layered with that taste of flamenco that screams for tango.)

 

Course # 5 --  Star-Lite Diner, 

Kitty is a a shy waitress longing for the be-sill-my-beating-heart Clutch.  Diner owner Pops thinks she can do better.  It doesn’t help that Clutch makes dim bulbs seem Mensa-esque.  (Musical Style is 50’s Rock).

 

Has anyone spotted the two MAJOR weaknesses here?  Let me wallow in my own kind of spoilers:

 

(1)   Every scene is an exercise in cliché, stereotype and shallowness.  It gives the entire show the papery depth of an onion.  And, IMHO, leaves an equally harsh taste in the mouth.

 

(2)   The many “Aspects of Love” on display are unrequited lust and … well, that’s about it.  There is little (if any) actual love in any of these scenes.  All the couples are young and loin-obsessed but NONE of them get even close to involving their hearts.

 

This is a play about young people reaching out to make that special connection but is too cynical and shallow to really appeal to anyone who has experienced a relationship that has itself  experienced any longevity.  It equates love with “quick connections,” and, to be honest, I found most of it appalling.

 

It least it would be appalling if everyone involved weren’t so durn good.  Chris Saltalamacchio (Matt, Gino, Klaus, Guillermo, and Clutch) has the most variety, equally convincing as the macho-soaked Guillermo and the frilly and fey Klaus.  Lillian Shaw is impressive as all the women, showing us the entire spectrum of intensity, from the shy and withdrawn kitty to the hot-to-trot Barbie, to the leather-clad Gretchen.  And Alex Eberhart as impressive as all the waiters (with a nice cameo as a winged cupid).

 

And It would be appalling if the design and staging weren’t so effective.  A Bandstand dominates the playing area (the live band directed by Brian Osborne hits every note right). Lights (by Cody Evins) make excellent use of MTC’s colorful LED’s, not to mention various light “displays” outside the various entrances to indicate the “where.”  And Stephanie Earle’s tight staging makes excellent use of the entire space, giving both audience “blocks” equal attention and focus, keeping the pacing to a tight intermission-less100 minutes.

But, in the final analysis, this show is as memorable as a meal at a Chinese Restaurant -- forgotten within minutes and leaving me hungry for so much more,

     --  Brad Rudy  (BKRudy@aol.com     @bk_rudy    #mtc5CourseLove)

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