By Meredith Ganzman (@MGanzman)
Love, Love, Love? No, I really really really did not. Roundabout’s new three-act off-Broadway play by Mike Bartlett and directed by Michael Mayer tells the story of the baby boomer generation once they have had babies of their own.
It’s 1967 and Kenneth (Richard Armitage) is squatting in his brother Henry’s (Alex Hurt) apartment in London – think Beatlemania and sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Sandra (Amy Ryan) and Kenneth meet and immediately fall for each other, though she’s supposed to be on a date with Henry. Today we would call that a total break in bro-code, but not in the summer of love. And that’s Act I.
Act II opens twenty some years later. Kenneth and Sandra are married and living in Reading, a posh London suburb. Kenneth’s shaggy hair is slicked back. Sandra’s traded a mini color block dress and white go-go boots for a red power suit. They have two teenage children, Rose (Zoe Kazan) and Jamie (Ben Rosenfield). They look more grown up, but are they more mature? They’re unhappy and no longer in love. It’s not the life they intended to have. And that’s Act II. Oh yeah, Rosie is left crying over her birthday cake. It’s also her birthday. And Jamie is smoking a cigarette.
Ok Act III – It’s present day. Henry has died, and Rose meets her father at his home after the funeral. Jamie is living there as well. Sandra also joins them. Sandra and Kenneth have been divorced for many years, and she is remarried. Rose, now in her thirties and a struggling violinist, has a very big request for her parents – to buy her a house. She blames them for encouraging her to pursue a passion that has left her penniless.
Yes, this may be most of the plot, but there’s not much more to tell. Bartlett brought a very different family story with King Charles III last year to Broadway. But with Love, Love, Love. Bartlett’s book paints a completely superficial portrait of the truly unlikable and unsympathetic characters.
In the final act, Rose pleads for her parents’ financial support. Though her generation may not have had the same opportunities as that of her parents, rather than feel sorry for her, you pity the parents for having to deal with such a self-absorbed, selfish and disrespectful daughter.
Ryan and Armitage do their best to bring depth to these characters, but no amount of alcohol they consume on stage – or that you consume during the two intermissions – can do that. Michael Mayer’s direction seems to completely ignore the text, not that there is much to gleam in the first place. Linking Act I and Act II is the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love,” but this play needs so much more, starting with some context and characters that an audience will not absolutely hate.
Love, Love, Love is playing The Laura Pels Theatre through December 18.