Los Angeles Theater Review: LOVESICK (LOFT Ensemble)

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by Barnaby Hughes on January 29, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


During the first five minutes of Lovesick I was beginning to think I had ended up at a school play. The acting was highly exaggerated, the props looked like elementary school paper-mache and the dialogue was doggerel verse. Fortunately, it got better. I wish I could say it got a lot better. Lovesick is basically a homegrown creation, Barnaby Hughes' Stage and Cinema review of LOVESICK at LOFT Ensemble in Los Angeleswritten and directed by its lead actress, Larissa Wise. A creative and quirky production, it features some rather comical characters and a facile, fantastical plot.

Lovesick, as its name suggests, is a fairly conventional love story about the “unlikely” attraction of opposites. (I put unlikely in quotes because, despite the would-be lovers’ protests, their attraction is actually quite predictable – inevitable even.) The protagonists are Benjamin (Adam Chambers), a vampire-like goth who lives in a cemetery, and Sophia (Larissa Wise), a Peter Pan-like girl who lives in a nursery surrounded by toys. Both Benjamin and Sophia each have two friends (Noah Benjamin and John Sperry Sisk, Marissa Galloway and Jessica Botello) who dress identically and seem to have no function other than to provide comic relief. Thus, there is Benjamin’s trio and Sophia’s trio. (Lovesick is full of many more symmetries such as these.)

Barnaby Hughes' Stage and Cinema review of LOVESICK at LOFT Ensemble in Los AngelesA few other odd and tragic characters round out the cast. Ideal mates for Benjamin and Sophia are introduced, Sally (Deborah Baker, Jr.) and Frank (Jason Ryan Lovett), but each fails to seduce his/her object of affection. Sally and Frank later unsuccessfully conspire together to part Benjamin and Sophia in order to achieve their objectives.

In order to add some tragedy (and music) to what is an otherwise light-hearted tale, the lovers’ parents are portrayed in a series of flashbacks. Benjamin’s mother (Vanessa Vaughn) flits and flounces across the stage, revealing her heart in song as well as her long, slender legs. Similarly, Sophia’s father (Sean Durrie) croons and plucks his way into young girls’ hearts. Both parents, then, are revealed as unlucky in love, piling up further evidence in proof of the “unlikely” attraction of Benjamin and Sophia.

Barnaby Hughes' Stage and Cinema review of LOVESICK at LOFT Ensemble in Los AngelesStructured in three parts, Lovesick begins in the cemetery with a focus on Benjamin, transitions to Sophia’s nursery, then climaxes with a bizarre war of wills and a kind of danse macabre. Though my eyelids began to droop as the second part wore on, my attention was seized during the finale by a dramatically expanded stage, which played with perspective by tapering back almost to a point. This made the stage appear far longer (and deeper) than it really was, a trick that was enhanced by planetarium-like lighting. It should be noted that the multitasking Larissa Wise and Jason Ryan Lovett are responsible for the set, light and sound designs.

While Larissa Wise as Sophia is rather cute and adorable, her character comes across as colorless, despite her colorful costumes. She is the kind of passive heroine that feminists love to hate. Fortunately, Benjamin captivates with his charming devilry and demoniacal energy. Adam Chambers captures his conflicted character well. Deborah Baker, Jr. is absolutely weird and witchy, spewing out long and alliterative lines with a single breath of air and in a piercing high voice.

Taking cues from the creative and visionary imaginations of Walt Disney and Tim Burton, Larissa Wise’s Lovesick seems to be a parable for my immature, vampire-obsessed generation. It is a hollow parable that really has no other message than that of love’s triumph. Or does it? What of the title’s second component? Yes, there’s something not quite right about this play, something that might turn your stomach or haunt your mind.

Barnaby Hughes' Stage and Cinema review of LOVESICK at LOFT Ensemble in Los Angeles


photos by Chelsea Coleman

LOFT Ensemble in Downtown L. A.
scheduled to end on March 10, 2013
for tickets, call (213) 680-0392
or visit http://www.LOFTensemble.com

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