Love Child – Off Broadway Theater Review
20+ FOR THE PRICE OF 2
by Arielle Lipshaw
published November 8, 2009
now playing at New World Stages
through January 3, 2010
It’s difficult to find nouns to describe Love Child. Adjectives are
easier—hilarious, frenetic, and brilliant are just a few which come immediately to mind. But nouns – the kind you generally use to answer
the inevitable question, “What’s the play about?” – are harder to think of.
Love Child, written and performed by
Daniel Jenkins and Robert Stanton at New World Stages, after a run at Primary Stages last year, is most simply described as “one of those
plays where two guys play a whole bunch of characters.” Although it is almost certainly, thanks to the skilled direction of Carl Forsman, one
of the most successful examples of that genre, it is more than just a character sampler or an acting showcase.
The structure of the play rests on the story of Joel, a writer, director, and actor, who is struggling to produce
his adaptation of the Greek myth Ion with a ragtag bunch of actors in a former Brooklyn sausage factory. Around this central conceit,
Stanton and Jenkins build up an eclectic and riotous cast of friends and relations, including a neurotic Jewish mother, a crazy aunt, an
aging hippie, and a Latina diva. The actors switch between characters with a fluidity so natural that at times you genuinely forget that
there are only two people on the stage. At the core of this play-within-a-play-within-a-play, there are deep truths—what does it mean to
love the theater? what does it mean to love your family?—which are presented with humor and, occasionally, heartbreak.
The flow of the narrative can sometimes be confusing—it was particularly difficult to tell whether some of the
musical sequences were meant to be a part of Joel’s play or a metatheatrical commentary—but the characterizations are never unclear for a
second, even when Stanton and Jenkins switch from role to role at lightning speed.
Throughout, Love Child sustains a breathtaking pace which other
productions barely approach at their climaxes. The hour and a half feels much shorter, and although I, for one, would be delighted to watch
Stanton and Jenkins do this for twice as long, the sheer physical effort of even that 90 minutes must be exhausting. I doubt that there are
many plays running in New York which deliver such satisfaction in such a short period of time. I’ve seen Love Child twice now, and feel like I could go back again and again, always finding something
arielle.lipshaw @ stageandcinema.com