Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Bartlett begins the action in 1967 London, where hardworking Henry (Hunter Hoffman) shares a cramped flat with his posturing younger brother, Oxford student Kenneth (Max Gordon Moore). They drink a lot (an ongoing theme), they argue about the necessity of attending college, and things heat up when Henry invites flighty, fashionable Sandra (Liza J. Bennett) to drop in–and Ken realizes at once that he has more in common with her than his brother does.
David Muse's direction seems to magnify the force of the actors' performances, as if their passions are too intense for the scenery to contain. After all, the play begins at a time of upheaval, as Henry follows the status quo while Ken and Sandra are propelled forward by new music (The Beatles, of course), new fashions, and the sense that they are part of a generation that will change the world in 10 years.
In the subsequent two acts, set in 1990 and 2011, Bartlett lays out what happens as the two optimists enter the workforce and raise their own children, rebellious Jamie (Max Jackson) and sensitive Rose (Madeline Seidman). Alexander Woodward's scenic design expands in size and detail as the action progresses, moving from the crowded, shabby first-act flat to a roomy home in the second act and a palatial house, including tall windows, in the third–amusingly, featuring a high-end turntable to play the precious LPs from their youth. (The flexible Victor Shargai Theatre here has the configuration of a traditional proscenium with a front curtain.)
Bennett and Moore, singly and together, movingly portray two people whose youthful sense of inevitable success eventually gives way to learning to accept their limitations. Jackson gives a feverish performance as a young man trying to find his place; Seidman is a woman who blames society and her family for giving her unrealistic goals; and Hoffman, the social conservative, never has a chance to adapt.
The other design elements also channel the path of Ken and Sandra from idealism to complacency, and their children's sense that their parents got the good things that they themselves cannot afford. Montana Levi Blanco has created period-perfect costumes, from first-act Ken's dressing gown and Sandra's white-and-black dress, black stockings, and white shoes, to Rose and Jamie's outfits that never seem to fit quite right. Cha See's lighting design brightens from the small sconce lights in the first-act apartment to the wide, almost panoramic windows of the third act.
Love, Love, Love runs through February 18, 2024, at Studio Theatre, Victor Shargai Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-332-3300 or visit www.studiotheatre.org.
By Mike Bartlett