Love, Love, Love: With One Casualty For Each
For each love in the title, there is one casualty left on the side by the two lovers at the center of this play as they journey from the age of 19 to 64, with one pit stop at 42. This seems to be the rule over at the Roundabout Off-Broadway theatre where the near perfect production of Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love is hilariously and brutally being performed nightly. This stellar cast, expertly directed by Michael Mayer, includes Richard Armitage, Alex Hurt, Zoe Kazan, Ben Rosenfield, and last but not least, the stupendous Amy Ryan. At the end of act one, the Beatles tell us that all you need is love, and for these two that does seem to be the case, but I’m guessing Barrett has a few other ideas beyond that.
This play is difficult to write about. Or maybe it’s just difficult for me to write about a play, any play, at this moment in time one week after a traumatic historical moment for the country I have chosen to live in. I can’t tell, but I can tell you that I was thoroughly pulled in to this examination of ‘Love, Love, Love‘ and the relationships that exist within over the years. It is a fine distraction from what happened, but also a reminder that years from now, we will look back with questioning eyes. Looking back at our youth and our ideals and trying to get a grip of what it all means is what we do as we move through life. This play is quite an indictment of the baby boomer/hippie generation by the playwright. Of those that were in their teens during the late sixties, and how over the years these freethinking hippies changed, while also staying pretty much the same.
The couple that we will follow through life meet at the expense of his brother, Henry beautifully and intricately played by Hurt. Disregarding his feelings, 19 year old Kenneth (a perfect Armitage) and Sandra (a delicious Ryan) are fully embracing the new world order of the 1960’s. Both of them relishing the sense of experimentation and freedom that the age of free love brings. They have stopped worrying about others and their reactions to their selfish desires and ego gratification. They cast those ideas aside as old and boring, jumping in to ‘love’ like the drunken bastards they both sort of are, leaving Henry on the side of the road licking his wounds. Casualty #1: the brother.
In the 1990’s the casualty of their love is a bit harder to pin down to one. Sandra and Kenneth are now a well off married couple with power jobs and highly educated teenage children. This should be heaven but all four seem to be off track. Both kids are suffering from their parent’s distractions and selfishness. Sandra barely registers family commitments in her life, choosing work and affairs over family commitments and support. Blindly grabbing what she wants and masking it as freedom, Ryan plays Sandra as a woman we want to dislike, but are drawn to despite ourselves. Now in their 40’s, these two are feeling trapped and not gratified enough in their ‘love’ and domestic family lives, itching to break out and break away. The end scene as we watch one child, Rose (Kazan) flail and the other Jamie (Rosenfield), retreat into some non-connected emotional void, makes one wonder which one has been the victim here of their obliviousness. My money goes on Jamie. Casualty #2: the son.
The third act finds us in 2011, the afternoon after Kenneth’s brother, Casualty #1’s funeral. Dad and son are living together in a luxurious home in the country like two retired gentlemen going to the pub and seeing shows. It’s quite sad to watch the young son, casualty #2, sleepwalking through his life. Jamie, exactingly played by Rosenfield, is like a survivor suffering from PTSD. Drinking, stammering, and forgetful, he tends to lose his train of thought, derailing into disconnection in the garden.
Into this well appointed home (perfect set designs by: Derek McLane) comes Rose, (the earnest and fantastic Kazan) the daughter who fought the hardest to get attention and gratification from her two selfish parents. She fought hard in Act two for their ‘love’ and attention, and now, 20 years later, she has asked them to come together as a family once more because she has something to say. It seems to be something important, as she looks like a boiling pot of porridge about to overflow. The mother finally arrives, with a very apt description of her journey over: “There she is safe and sound, but a trail of destruction in her wake, no doubt,” perfectly stated by Kenneth. Only than does the magnificent Kazan dive into her soliloquy that is basically a denouncement of her parental care. It’s devastating, but ultimately pointless as her complaints are met by deaf ears. Casualty #3: the daughter.
This play begs us to ask the question, what will this generation have to say for itself years from now? What about my generation? The one that came just after the baby boomers? Or the generations to come. Ultimately, the thread that holds Love, Love, Love together is the larger question that begs to be answered. Is it wrong that their parent’s love for each other and their deep passion is more important than anything or anyone else? Are they selfish or are they simply passionately blind to others and only capable of seeing each other? They obviously left a trail of despair behind but in the end; they do come together in each other’s arms, because nothing in life comes even close to what they feel for each other. What will our story look like in 20 to 40 years?