×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Love Child

There are no slamming doors -- no doors at all, in fact, on a set that's nothing but six chairs -- but "Love Child" has the two most important elements of a farce: a plot that gets ludicrously complex and artists who keep the chaos under control.

With:
With: Daniel Jenkins, Robert Stanton.

There are no slamming doors — no doors at all, in fact, on a set that’s nothing but six chairs — but “Love Child” has the two most important elements of a farce: a plot that gets ludicrously complex and artists who keep the chaos under control. Because the creatives know what they’re doing, auds can savor the possibility that everything will fall apart, without actually believing a meltdown is possible.

Writer-stars Daniel Jenkins and Robert Stanton give themselves an enormous challenge: They play all 12 characters in this backstage farce about a theater company trying to stage a Greek tragedy, and they do it without changing costumes. Their bodies, voices and rubbery faces are the only tools they use to create an entire world.

It’s easy, however, to imagine what every character wears and how they style their hair. Jenkins and Stanton, both veteran character actors, stoke the imagination with their remarkable physical and vocal precision.

Popular on Variety

And their perfs have the same deranged wit as their writing. In the first scene, for instance, we meet Joel (Jenkins), a flailing actor auditioning for hideous TV shows while trying to mount his own adaptation of “Ion,” an obscure Euripides tragedy, in a former sausage factory. As Joel sits in his car, things seem normal enough, until Stanton lumbers on as Joel’s father, Richard. With a horrible, open-mouthed grin, Richard sits next to his son and talks without moving his lips.

Turns out, Richard is wearing a giant rubber mask. He’s a failed actor too, so he has taken a job playing the mascot for a family restaurant. He explains this while making loud sucking sounds, peeling the invisible mask off his face, and then he gives his son this bit of wisdom: “Like my ex used to say, ‘You actors are all just a bunch of carnie trash.’ He was right!”

So … that’s a Greek tragedy, two failing careers and a gay dad in a clown suit, all in the first three minutes. And the script keeps upping the audacity. Joel’s co-stars in “Ion” are all dope heads, divas and derelicts, and they’re not half as wild as his blowsy agent (also his mother) and her assistant, who thinks everything happening onstage is real.

Stanton and Jenkins make each character clear, and they structure their plot to resemble Euripides’ play — about an orphan who discovers his remarkable ancestry. In between the puns and the recurring bit about a slick spot on the stage, there’s a sophisticated story of betrayal, deceit and love.

Love wins out, and the final scenes trade madcap comedy for touching sincerity. The tonal shift works because amid all the hijinks, we’ve learned enough about these people to care for them.

Few comedies achieve that kind of sweetness, with a happy ending that isn’t covered in goo. Credit director Carl Forsman, a.d. of Keen Company, for capturing the emotional nuance of the writing. While the thesps jump from character to character, the helmer keeps the pace frantic in the funniest bits and injects stillness just when we’re supposed to pay attention.

Better yet, the director doesn’t linger. Jokes and revelations land, and then it’s on to the next bit. Many helmers would stretch these moments out, insisting we take them in, but Forsman trusts us to follow along. That’s the kind of confidence that makes a farce satisfying.

Love Child

59E59 Theaters; 199 seats; $15 top

Production: A Primary Stages presentation of a play in one act by Daniel Jenkins and Robert Stanton. Directed by Carl Forsman.

Creative: Sets, Neil Patel; costumes, Candice Donnelly; lighting, Jeff Croiter, Grant Yeager; choreography, Tracy Bersley; production stage manager, Joanne E. McInerny. Opened Oct. 26, 2008. Reviewed Oct. 21. Running time: 1 HOUR, 20 MIN.

Cast: With: Daniel Jenkins, Robert Stanton.

More Legit

  • Warner Bros. Pictures trailer launch event

    Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jon M. Chu Tease 'In the Heights' Movie

    Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Jon M. Chu and star Anthony Ramos took the train to the top of the world to offer a sneak peek of “In the Heights,” Warner Bros.’ big-screen adaptation of Miranda’s (other) hit musical. “I’m thrilled we’re here, and I’m thrilled we’re uptown,” Miranda rhapsodized to a packed crowd at a cozy [...]

  • Lucas Hnath

    Listen: Lucas Hnath's Own Play Gives Him Nightmares

    Tony-nominated playwright Lucas Hnath (“A Doll’s House, Part 2”) has two shows in New York this season: a monologue based on the real-life experiences of his mother, and a ghost story. One of them gave him nightmares — but it wasn’t the ghost story. Listen to this week’s podcast below: He explained why on the [...]

  • Greater Clements review

    'Greater Clements': Theater Review

    The American Dream and all of its values have taken quite a beating lately. Director and screenwriter Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” Bruce Springsteen’s recent “Western Stars” album, even Ralph Lauren in the documentary “Very Ralph” show us how this country and all of its totems and merits have gone asunder. No dreams are more crushed, [...]

  • Harry Connick Jr Walk of Fame

    Harry Connick Jr. on Returning to Broadway

    Harry Connick Jr. is headed back to Broadway with a three-week limited engagement celebration of legendary songwriter Cole Porter. The actor and musician came up with the concept for the show and is also directing. “I love Broadway and if I had two careers one of them would be only Broadway just because I love [...]

  • Jagged Little Pill review

    Broadway Review: 'Jagged Little Pill'

    Nearly 25 years after “Jagged Little Pill” hit the shelves of record stores, Alanis Morissette’s innovative 1995 album has arrived on Broadway under the muscular direction of Diane Paulus, who launched this galvanic production at the American Repertory Theater. The show’s supportive book by screenwriter Diablo Cody interprets Morissette’s musical idiom as a universal domestic [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content