nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
October 30, 2009
The first thing I must say about Love Child is that it's not confusing anymore.
When I saw it just about a year ago at 59E59 (where it was a production of Primary Stages), I enjoyed it with reservations, namely the fact that, with its wonderful stars and performers Daniel Jenkins and Robert Stanton playing all the roles and doing all of the sound effects, it was at points confusing.
I can't say if anything was changed. To be honest, I just don't remember what I took issue with. All I know now is that Love Child, in its current state at New World Stages, is pretty perfect theatrical entertainment. And no longer confusing.
Jenkins and Stanton play all the characters and do all the sound effects. It's what The 39 Steps would look like if there were two actors instead of four. Jenkins plays, among others, Joel, a "downtown" theatre producer (so far downtown, that his theater is a former sausage factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn). Obsessed with Greek mythology, he decides to stage a modern adaptation of Ion, a play nobody's ever heard of by Euripides. On the same night that well-known Hollywood producers are seeing the show, the performance goes awry with Joel's mother, his agent, and his aunt loudly interrupting from the front row, a cast member who overdoses on sleeping pills, and a whole host of other interruptions that, in any normal play, would close the show on opening night. Stanton plays a variety of roles, from Joel's father to a Mexican-American actress.
One thing to note is that there is now a set, but there really isn't one. The original Love Child ran in repertory at 59E59 with A Body of Water, and used drop cloths to cover that play's set. Now, Neil Patel has upped the design ante, ever so slightly. The stage is covered in posters for Joel's theater company, which modernizes classic plays (among them, "The Prime of Miss Dee Hoty," and "The Blackhae.") The set, with which Jenkins and Stanton have no interaction, uses elements and pieces from the recent productions of The Bacchae, The Tin Pan Alley Rag, The Retributionists, and Shipwrecked. It's a backstage mishmash and it looks great. The two men still only use their coterie of chairs to do their work.
It's no easy task to do what Jenkins and Stanton do. They run wild and are simply outrageous. Director Carl Forsman and choreographer Tracy Bersley guide them with a restrained hand, staying just the right drop out of their way. I don't know if the script has been altered, I seem to remember a slightly different opening and ending, though.
But my favorite line, a joke at the expense of the Manhattan Theater Club, is still there. And it, along with almost every facial expression and action, brings down the house.