I always imagined that my perfect husband would be a native New Yorker, probably a few years older than me. He would be working at a media company of some sort, have the same obsession with pop culture that I do, he would be neat (or neatish . . . definitely not a slob), always on time, probably of Italian decent, probably a little too into gender stereotypes (but I’d learn to live with it). I imagined him as a dog person – maybe he even owned one already. I also assumed he probably would never take me to the theatre and I’d wind up going alone, or not going at all once I was married.
That was my list.
However the love of my life, my beautiful husband Stephen, turned out to have nothing – NOTHING that was on my list. He hails from Michigan, is a great deal younger than I am, is a math and science nerd, and knows very little about pop culture unless it’s sci-fi. He’s far from neat, he’s never on time, he’s a mix of many nationalities but none of them Italian. He’s so NOT into gender stereotypes that he actually considered taking my last name when we married before we decided to combine both and take each others’ names. He prefers cats over dogs (though is willing to consider getting a bulldog someday) and has accompanied me to over 100 plays, musicals and performances in the last 18 months alone. I thank the universe every day that I didn’t get that awful guy that was on my list and that Fate brought me Stephen instead.
The Love List Written by Norm Foster, directed by Jessica McVea and playing at Manhattan Theatre Source is a very funny look at what would happen if we got everything we put down on a list for a would-be mate, and if they were delivered directly into our lives, fully immersed in a functional relationship. But don’t be fooled by this seemingly simple premise.
Norm Foster is a playwright who has caught just the right edge with this topic, and his dialogue snaps with humor, truth, and even a few kernels of wisdom all wrapped up in a fizzy, funny cotton candy package. Under Jessica McVea’s breezy direction, what could easily have become hokey or pandering comes alive as Bill (Jarel Davidow) Leon (Jake Hart) and Justine (Kate Goehring) show just how easy it is to fall prey to the “grass is greener” syndrome . . . that is, once we’re finally sitting on the grass at all.
The premise begins with Bill celebrating his 50th birthday without the joys of female companionship (as his best friend Leon points out continually). Finding this a combination of sad, pathetic and horrible Leon has purchased a somewhat unique 50th birthday present for his best pal – Got-A-Match . . . a “mate-finding” service. But not just your usual eHarmony / JDate /Match.com variety of service . . . no – instead Leon has gone to an old gypsy woman who guarantees results.
Now, hold on to your Love Potion #9, there’s a little bit more to this than easy laughs. Just watching Bill (a divorced man wading through the Sahara of a seven year dry spell) and Leon (a man whose marriage spans half his life and who has had his fair share of dalliances) wrestle over what should be on “The List” is wryly amusing. While Leon urges Bill to include things such as physical attributes and sexual proclivities, Bill is more focused on someone who will find him interesting, who will like kissing him, and who will be much like a girl he dated a long time ago in his youth.
I’m not throwing out any spoilers here when I tell you that, of course, this exact woman walks through the door. However, it’s the way the light slowly begins to dawn on Bill that maybe his list doesn’t add up to such a perfect woman after all, that makes this such a fun play.
I’ll leave the rest of the plot a mystery, for half the joy is watching these three talented actors uncover the story for you. However, I will say that by the end you’re left with a lot to chew on . . . and a feeling of satisfaction.
I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of Mr. Davidow, Ms. Goehring and Mr. Hart. They are all obviously talented, but more than that there is a chemistry between all three of them that visibly sparkles. And so convincing is Ms. Goehring’s Justine that she has you wondering if perhaps she’s been in Bill’s life all along and maybe it’s HE who has suffered some sort of brain blip. To watch them cavort through this fun tale made for a great evening of theatre.
In a nice touch, Kathleen O’Neill, founder and Director of BOO-ARTS, was handing out blank Love Lists at the end of the show. “Fill them out!” she called to each person as she gave them out. “I don’t need to . . .” I called back, pointing to my husband, “He IS my list!” And maybe that’s the message of this play . . . just as I discovered when I met Stephen – turns out your One True Love doesn’t always conform to your List. Sometimes your List conforms to your One True Love.~~~
THE LOVE LIST
Written by by Norm Foster
Directed by Jessica McVea
Closes on May 15, 2010 Manhattan Theatre Source
177 MacDougal Street
New York, NY 10011
Ticket Price: $18.00
Tickets by Phone: 866-811-4111