3 Stars

★★★ Luv Actually: An Alternative Christmas Comedy

Charlotte Pegram reviews Luv at Park Theatre

luvThe push and pull of love. You give, you take, and, for the cast of Buckland Theatre Company’s production, you’re never quite sure whether you’re in love at all.

A three-strong cast blast their way through this light-hearted comedy. Set in 1960s New York, we first meet Milt and Harry who are estranged school pals. Great friends in their time, the fifteen years that separate them have seen Milt gain money and status, while Harry has dwindled in existential despair.

luvMilt’s success is only a facade, though. He actually feels despair of his own- the despair of being married to the wrong woman. But Harry takes pride in the awfulness of his life and doesn’t like a rival to his misery. Cue competitive whinging; who had the worst parents, the worst Christmases, the worst love- it’s a scene that becomes increasingly silly and is a central part to the play’s comedy.

Initially there’s lots of different types of humour at work. A fair bit of travesty in the repeated visual gag of Milt’s intended suicide, farcical comedy that takes a distinctly physical edge in Milt’s range of afflictions, but there’s also a lot of straight comedy which doesn’t always sit well with the absurdist. It’s not until Milt’s wife, Ellen, enters that we find some solid ground in a romantic comedy of sorts, with Milt happily passing off his neurotic wife onto Harry when they fall head over heals in love- or so they think.

luv-3

The second half seems more relaxed, with a clearer target in it’s sights; a sending-up of marriage and the age-0ld battle of the sexes. Elsie Bennett’s Ellen really command the stage in this second half, moving from the loneliness and frustration of being more intelligent than both her husbands to the passionate realisation that the grass really isn’t any greener. Whereas Milt’s character (Nick Barber) also develops as the play continues- becoming a desperate but devious love hound, Charles Dorfman has the difficult role of keeping Harry’s character fresh. Essentially he remains the pitiful oddity he was in the first act, but, to his credit, Dorfman keeps the same gags about his poetry and his seizures amusing. It’s no surprise, though, that we’re not really rooting for his character by the time the play reaches its farcical end.

There’s lots of moments to enjoy in this production, but it’s seems too much of a hodgepodge of styles at time. The second half is definitely worth holding out for, though. Less frenzied and more controlled than the first, it shows the writing and the cast at its best. Definitely a fine alternative to the staple Christmas shows, but probably not a classic in the making.

Charlotte Pegram


Plays until: 7 Jan 2017
Performances
Tue – Sat Evenings 19.45
Thu & Sat Matinees 15.15

Running Time
2 hours 10 mins inc. interval

Written by Murray Schisgal

Directed by Gary Condes 

Milt – Nick Barber

Ellen – Elsie Bennett

Harry – Charles Dorfman

For more information and tickets click here

 

Categories: 3 Stars, review

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