In thinking about this play, the word “hit” has popped up more than usual—as in, a strike, a blow—hitting the mark, hitting its stride, hitting the ground running. A line that hits you between the eyes and works its way down to your heart. I don’t want Orfeo Group’s “Love Song,”to sound like an amateur boxing match, but I mean that it “hits” in the most positive ways. It’s funny, sweet, and strange enough to be compelling and memorable. In short, it’s a summer treat that’s lyric and slightly off, leaving the audience not bruised or sugar-sick but refreshed, if not satisfyingly puckered. It’s like a pitcher of lemonade with one too many lemons.
“Love Song” is the story of Beane (Gabriel Kuttner), who works for the city and exiles himself in a Spartan hovel. After his apartment is burgled, he begins an intense relationship with a woman named Molly (Georgia Lyman). His sister Joan (Liz Hayes) and her husband Harry (Daniel Berger-Jones), get swept up in his lovestruck transformation. Playwright John Kolvenbach’s writing makes “Love Song” truly live up to its name: without falling into an overtly flowery tone, his dialogue and characterization conjure romance—and humor—in unlikely places. The language, particularly Beane’s, is heightened enough to remind us this world is on stage while at once enhancing the humanity we recognize.
It is perhaps for this reason that “Love Song” initially tests the audience’s journey from the real world into the world of the play. “Love Song” takes a few scenes to settle into its groove. For a bit too long, it’s like watching two characters: Bean (understated and weird) and everyone else (brash and maybe too quick-witted). But “Love Song” finds its stride brilliantly and beautifully, with turns that are bizarre without alienating, and speech that’s quick, lovely, and often hilarious.
The talents of the cast—some of Boston’s more recognizable players—are never in question. Kuttner’s poetic portrayal of Beane calmly yet ecstatically pierces through expected renderings of loneliness and longing. His roundabout journey through love is at once fantastic and familiar. Hayes is expertly severe and vulnerable as Beane’s sister, Joan, whose transformation creeps up as she sees herself in a brother she could never reach. The two couples have undeniable chemistry—Joan and Harry as yuppie-ish contemporaries, Beane and Molly as love-starved misfits—and they give us two love songs which end up sounding surprisingly similar.
Therein lies the beauty of “Love Song”: refreshing twists and skillful turns, even if we briefly wince as we see ourselves. It may be a perfect date night—even for first dates. The plot offers enough to discuss in the odd unfolding of events to shift the focus from the inevitable challenges of love.
Free tickets on Thursday nights (on a first-come-first-serve basis), and $20 tickets any other night, plus a series of post-show events, make “Love Song” more than worth the trip.
Directed by Risher Reddick, “Love Song” plays through August 27 at Charlestown Working Theater.