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Philip Dorian


Lotsa’ love for “Mad Love” in Long Branch NJ


Through Nov 20
at NJ Repertory, 179 Broadway, Long Branch..
Thurs & Fri at 8PM; Sat at 3 & 8; Sun at 2PM. Tickets ($45) 732-229-3166 or at www.njrep.org
Reviewed by Philip Dorian October 22, 2016.

Thinking about “Mad Love," the word “lark” popped into my head. Where’d that come from? I thought, so I looked it up: Something mischievous…an amusing adventure or escapade. Marisa Smith’s play, running through November 20 at New Jersey Repertory Company, is a lark. The self-labeled “Romantic Comedy” may be just another RomCom about modern-day attitudes and hang-ups, but its apt additional descriptive “for Cynical Times” elevates it, if not out of that category, at least to its top-quality level.

Alex Trow and Graham Techler. Photo by SuzAnne Barabas.

Twenty-something singles Brandon (Graham Techler) and Sloane (Alex Trow) have been dating casually (sex at her place, but no sleep-overs) for a few months, after meeting at House of Brews, where he thinks he picked her up. (She knows better.) At dinner, she blindsides him with a request to donate sperm that she can freeze for insemination later (but not past when she can still rock a post-maternity bikini). At first, Brandon’s shocked refusal seems priggish, even for a middle-school teacher, but he – via playwright Smith – makes a sensible case for it later.

Brandon’s brother, Doug (Jared Michael Delaney), mildly impeded from a brain injury suffered in a fraternity prank, nonetheless contributes somehow-wise and witty commentary, unfortunately verbalized in a stream of f-words (some gratuitously prefixed), an amateurish playwright choice, enhancing neither the character nor the actor. Finally, there’s Doug’s birthday present, in the person of Katrina (Brittany Proia), a Ukranian “escort” who worms her way into Doug’s affections and, more important, his confidence, before conning him (maybe) out of his prized possession.


Jared Michael Delaney and Brittany Proia.Photo by SuzAnne Barabas

We’ve seen these types on stage before, but rarely as well depicted on the page and in the flesh. Ms. Trow is a special treat as the delightfully animated (even when seated) Sloane, whose late-revealed dark secret, we realize retroactively, has swayed the character from the start. Brandon is a fellow of several qualities, not all admirable, but all secondary to the charm with which Techler imbues him. For a goodly portion of the play Sloane and Brandon are mutually antagonistic; nonetheless, as acted, there’s considerable chemistry between them.

Delaney rises above the grating lingo to reveal Doug’s child-like openness and vulnerability. That he also executes the intricate set changes (another triumph for designer Jessica Parks) seems somehow in character. The hooker with a heart of gold (or maybe not) may be a stereotype, but Ms. Proia fleshes this one out nicely. Evan Bergman’s deft direction illuminates the situation and the relationships over a just-right span of ninety minutes.

The several story threads are introduced (and acted) naturally and, in one challenging example that could have gone awry, tastefully. These are real people in believable situations. A couple of “Mad Love” plot developments are predictable half-way in, but one last-minute revelation is not; and it wins your heart. Factor-in that you’ll learn who Napolean Lajoie was (and how to pronounce his name) and you’ve got yourself, well, a lark.

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