Mad Love: World Premiere at Northern Stage
Is love over? Is a woman without a man really like a fish without a bicycle? What's the matter with kids today? Mad Love at Northern Stagemay not answer, but certainly asks, all of the above questions and more. Sloane (Alex Trow) is in search of a sperm donor and the possibility of a baby, but never marriage. Brandon (Thom Miller) may want Sloane, but not enough. Doug (Daniel Patrick Smith) is eager to love Katerina (Laurel Casillo), a paid escort, who finds him charming, but she's looking for a man who will give her money, not romance. And there is a baseball card thrown into the mix that touches on the relationships between and among them all. There are laughs, but they lie on the surface. The slow reveal about the characters shows their sadder sides. Two of them (I won't give away the play's secrets) have been scarred, in predictably gendered ways, by the fraternity culture of binge drinking and sexual violence. The program notes ask "Who takes responsibility for these incidents and the effect they have on the individuals involved?" The answer is no one, although lives go on just the same. The actors are convincing, the set has a pedigree, having been designed by David L. Arsenault, who is busy with the sets of two shows currently on Broadway. Carol Dunne, Artistic Director, acknowledged that in contrast to a widely known play like Mary Poppins, or Our Town, people may be less driven to fill the theater's seats to see something that they have never heard of. Northern Stage is trying to turn that hesitance on its head, saying that that is the best reason to see theater. Like Orwell in America of last season, this staging of Marisa Smith's play is a world premiere. A day after seeing the play, I am still pondering. Frat culture, the looking/not looking for love theme, and humor are an interesting and arresting mix; it's a lot to handle in just 75 minutes. As a person whose youth happened to fall in the love-is-all-you-need era, I wanted to corner some younger viewers on the subject of their love lives (or lack thereof) and ask "Is it really that bad?" Yet for all the sadness of this portrayed love-light-if-at-all reality, one can certainly argue that the overselling of romance left a different set of scars on past generations. And the brother relationship in this play is very sweet indeed. Mad Love runs from January 27 to February 13. On a related note, Northern Stage is in a last push of fundraising for the new Barrette Center, looking for 100 new donors in the next 100 days. You can be part of theater history in White River Junction, VT. Naming possibilities--the lobby wall, the sidewalk brick--are available.