Love, Love, Love is the time-warping, three act play written by Mike Bartlett and directed by Micahel Mayer. This Roundabout Theatre production focuses on the love, marriage, and parental decisions of two hippies, Kenneth and Sandra that decide to join their lives together for better and for worse. Yet, their love for each other is not as generously extended to others, particularly their children.
Parenting is not easy, but for Kenneth and Sandra it never seemed like a role that properly fit them. In the first act, you meet and Ken and Sandra when they are they are 19 years old, and like all 60’s generation youth, they believe their very existence is the reason the world will be better. From the beginning, these characters are set as the most charismatic, intelligent, and self-absorbed beings you will ever meet. They unite in love/lust immediately after meeting, despite the fact that Sandra was dating Henry (Alex Hurt), Ken’s older brother. The selfishness of Ken and Sandra’s nature is never hidden from the audience as remarks of how each have coldly distanced themselves from their hometowns and parents are casually dropped. Yet, their excitement for life is so infectious, you are willing to forgive their cruel chiding of others’ pain like, Henry’s. The audience’s willingness to like Ken and Sandra throughout all their mistakes comes from the sheer detailing and charm of their actors: Richard Armitage and Amy Ryan.
Armitage and Ryan have made momentous, memorable characters through Ken and Sandra. Ryan is quirky and bright as Sandra, whose silver tongue can seduce and manipulate anyone. She is the most hilarious character of the play, while Armitage does fantastic to show through Ken that a man can age without growing up. They both do excellently at making their characters’ layered and easily examinable for moral lessons. As the next two acts ensue to find these once free lovebirds become corporate persons struggling to see why their kids feel embarrassed by them. Their parenting skills would be cringe-worthy if not for how likeable and intelligent Armitage and Ryan are in giving Ken and Sandra physical and intellectual traits that reveal their humanity. Although Ken and Sandra are all about positivity and peace, they have the tendency to cause emotional damage and never make amends.
Ben Rosenfield as Jamie and Zoe Kazan as Rose represent the valid frustration that one can feel when they realize some of their parents’ answers/advice was destructive. The play travels to different eras in Ken and Sandra’s relationship, which makes you witness the foundation of their children’s future emotional scars (second act) and the self-sabotaging choices they will struggle to heal as adults (third act). It is in the second act, that Kazan shines as the consistently and rightfully enraged Rose, whose angst is palpable along with her disappointment at her parents’ delusional immaturity. Rose transitions from a teenager into an adult that is the constant, yet wrathful voice of reason. She cannot understand her parents’ decisions to either play or plot against each other without any regard to their children’ feelings. Meanwhile. Ben Rosenfield does well to counter Kazan’s Rose by giving Jamie a sweet, meek personality. Rosenfield is an eccentric light as Jamie, but, again, it is Kazan’s Rose that is placed center to one of the most important themes/questions of Love, Love, Love: Even as adults, can you blame your parents for your life’s choices?
The third act finds Rose 37, seeking a job, with no kids or relationship, and no idea of what she wants from her life. She demands her parents’ fix her life/ economic crisis through their retirement funds, to which they scold and diminish her petition. Although her arguments are not wrong in claiming the vast, emotional turbulence they caused her, Rose exemplifies that the older you grow the less you can blame your parents’. There comes a point where self- accountability must be taken, and childhood wounds no longer seem like a valid excuse for why your life is not going according to any plan. What triggers a person to transition from blaming others to self-accountability is unknown, and the play, smartly does not try to answer that challenge.
I was enthralled by Love, Love, Love. The cast was stellar, and the set design by Derek McLane of one 60’s, one 80’s, and one present- day living room helped built this multi-era dramedy. Bartlett and Mayer have created a production that questions whether some people should be parents, Ken and Sandra, and how much should their lack of parenting skills affect their children, Jamie and Rose, into adulthood. Seeing how generations struggle to extend themselves in love between and for each other is a topic that is timeless, but not as articulately or humorously discussed as in Love, Love, Love. For More Information on Love, Love, Love and to buy tickets to Click Here. The play is currently on till December 18 at The Laura Pels Theatre, 111 West 46th Street, New York, NY, 10036.