Whether it's a pocket protector-wielding dork with a sex-crazed cowgirl or a guido with his mobster’s mistress, mismatched pairs fill this entertaining romp as Stages Repertory Theatre presents Five Course Love through April 16.
Director Mitchell Greco delivers Greg Coffin’s witty 2005 musical with comedic gusto that never drags and always surprises. The five scenarios take place in restaurants where love may or may not be on the menu. Greco highlighted the wistfulness of love without minimizing its humorous aspects. With Macy Lyne’s spot-on costumes, coupled with high-energy performances from only three actors playing multiple roles (Dylan Godwin, Mark Ivy and Chelsea Ryan McCurdy), the audience can laugh at the hits, and inevitable misses, of love between the characters.
Whether inside an American soda shop, Mexican cantina, German restaurant or an Italian trattoria, it's amazing to watch the actors transform from scene to scene. The fun begins with Ivy playing Matt, a nerdy motorcyclist who opens the scene with a catchy musical admission that he is “A Very Single Man” as he prepares to meet a sex-pot cowgirl named Barbie (McCurdy). At the restaurant, the two are served by their cowboy waiter—donning fringed chaps—Dean (Godwin) and as the first date of the evening unfolds, or rather folds, the audience realizes that Matt and Barbie are not a match made in heaven. Their rendition of “Jumpin’ The Gun” sets the tone for the rest of the performance's musical numbers by incorporating clever and detailed choreography.
The story comes full circle in the end, and I liked how the narratives intersected each other in surprising ways. Not to be the "Queen of the Spoilers," but trust me—each date has its own flavor, so there is something for everyone. The actors combine demanding physical movements, formidable singing chops and impeccable comedic timing that is truly collaborative—no one is trying to upstage the other, and it is fun to see how things progress. Fast-paced and witty, some of the songs reminded me of love ballads by the Carpenters (if they had a sense of humor) or catchy numbers from the film Grease or Broadway musicals (if they were delivered in a more intimate venue).
I was particularly impressed by Ivy's performance. His multiple roles allowed the audience to see his vocal range and ability to fuse his comedic talents with challenging physical demands. I had seen him in other roles, but this play gives him a more prominent place on the stage. He delivers in every scene, from choreography to his kaleidoscope of accents.
The scenarios are funny without being dumb, and there is even a bit of wisdom to be gleaned through the laughter about the romantic challenges of finding, and keeping “the One.”
“In the end, Five Course Love reveals the danger preconceived stereotypes post to our universal search for connection and love. The play dares to posit that love is not a destination; rather, it is a complex outrageous journey," says artistic director Kenn McLaughlin. "And true love, the one that looks back at you in complicated honesty, is found beyond the insufficiency or storybooks and stereotypes.”
Five Course Love is campy, kitschy and comical, and there is never a dull moment. The details, from the salt shakers and tablecloths which signal setting changes to the big hair and rhinestone wedges of the mafia princess, make you realize how much thought went into this production. It is refreshing to see musical comedy that isn’t afraid to push the envelope and still have fun, reminding us that there is always an element of truth in every stereotype. And if you aren’t paralyzed by political correctness or chronically offended by parody and hyperbole, then prepare for one delicious evening.
From $26. 3210 Allen Pkwy, Ste. 101. 713-527-0123. stagestheatre.com