Written and Directed by Seanie Sugrue
Produced by Locked in the Attic Productions
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 9.23.17
The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23rd Street
by Shoshana Roberts on 9.11.17
Julie Reifers, John Warren, and Richard Mazda in Love is Dead!. Photo by Reiko Yanagi.
BOTTOM LINE: Physically and mentally abusive characters show their love for each other in strange psychotic ways through violence, sexism, and yelling in this surprisingly well-written comedy.
Seanie Sugrue presents a very specific brand of humor in Love is Dead! Even with difficult subjects—from mental abuse and murder to sexism and sexual abuse—Sugrue somehow manages to successfully write and direct a comedy. This specific brand of warped humor walks a fine line between inappropriate and hilarious, and Sugrue is extremely skilled at balancing right on that line. In Love is Dead!, you don't always know who to trust, and the football team you root for can determine whether you live or die. It's a crazy world with some of the most psychotic, and entertaining, characters.
Love is Dead! consists of three acts, or chapters. "The Apple and the Tree!” begins with Betsy (Julie Reifers) and Walter (Richard Mazda), an old married couple who don't seem to have much love for each other anymore. Or perhaps there was never any love in the first place. They raise their voices, curse, and annoy each other. Betsy, who makes strange faces at the television, is constantly yelling at Walter, who she insists is an alcoholic thief. And their son Trevor (John Warren) possesses these same traits. Trevor spends the scene defending himself to his parents and to his wife Ginger (Rachel Zapata). None of them seem to believe Trevor when he insists he was raped by two women.
Chapter two is “Two Minute Kenneth!” Cindy (Ana Roshelle Diaz) and Eugene (Patrick Brian Scherrer) are in an unhealthy relationship. When Cindy's friend Nancy (Ashton Foster) shows up, we find out Cindy is going to leave Eugene, and all hell breaks loose when Eugene arrives home and Cindy doesn't take his coat at the door. The final chapter is “My Goldfish Loves Me But I Hate Your Guts!” which surrounds Maggie, a drug-addicted prostitute who has sold everything in her house except for her fish Franky.
I will refrain from giving too many details away so as not to spoil the way Sugre's fun play comes full circle by the end. The lives of these oddballs are woven together in an extremely clever way, but for some actors, the writing serves as a crutch. While some of the actors are fantastic, others did not develop their characters as much as they could have, perhaps because Sugre gives them such interesting back stories. Then again, it is still a pleasure to watch this ensemble portray these abusive, crazy people in their strange versions of love.
Love is Dead! is also quite the interesting social commentary on what we will put up with for love. No matter how terribly these people abuse each other, they still can't quite break themselves from maintaining these strong emotions and bonds. Despite being quite humorous, there is real pain and confusion here, with these characters struggling to make a better life for themselves, surrounded by those who care.
The Secret Theatre's website reads “Warning: Love is Dead! deals in mature subject matter and contains sexual content, strong language, and graphic violence.” I had assumed this might be meant more as a joke (or hype), yet after seeing the play, the statement seems appropriate. One woman screamed the first time a gun was fired; several of the relationships might trigger trauma from someone's past. But otherwise, from one-liners like “stop using my insanity as an excuse,” to the smart playlist of “Love Potion Number Nine” and “Stupid Cupid,” to the shocking graphic violence, Love is Dead! is such a fun show, as long as you aren't easily offended.
(Love is Dead! plays at The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23rd Street in Long Island City, through September 23, 2017. The running time is 1 hour 30 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Wednesdays through Sundays at 8. Tickets are $18 and are available at secrettheatre.com. For more information visit lockedintheatticproductions.com.)
Love is Dead! is written and directed by Seanie Sugrue. Set Design is by Marie Therese Walter. Stage Manager is Patrick Brian Scherrer.
The cast is Julie Reifers, Richard Mazda, John Warren, Jessica Carillo, Rachel Zapata, Ana Roshelle Diaz, Ashton Foster, Patrick Brian Scherrer, Gerard McNamee Jr., Chris Gentile, Denis Ooi, Mike Free, Hannah Jane McMurray, and Myles O'Connor.