BWW Reviews: Happy Full or Uncomfortably Full? MMT's FIVE COURSE LOVE
Well, it's a decidedly bitter Sunday evening in Minnesota---what else is new---when FIVE COURSE LOVE made its debut in my life. I took my seat---along with my theatre-loving companion---and prepared myself for a night of music and body warming laughs. This weekend, Minneapolis Musical Theatre opened FIVE COURSE LOVE and after the performance I witnessed, it was certainly something of a feast.
FIVE COURSE LOVE by Gregg Coffin has a fairly simple premise, five different love stories set in five themed restaurants and three actors playing all the roles. It's a fast-paced, campy, and wildly outrageous comedy that weaves together music, humor and a little dash of heart.
Each course, as I shall refer to them from now on, features one couple and a waiter. Amanda Weis and Ryan McGuire Grimes play all the couples---with the exception of one but that doesn't matter---and Joseph Pyfferoen plays essentially the third character in each, and boy was their work cut out for them.
It's a difficult skill to transform oneself into a different character, let alone five in one show, but the trio manages to make it happen. Although, I have to be honest some of the characters didn't seem to showcase the actors to the best of their ability---and maybe that stems from something else. Grimes did an excellent job as the Latin crusader, Guillermo, but I wasn't in love with his 1950s character, Clutch. The same could be said for each of the actors. Pyfferoen felt awkward as the western restaurateur, Dean but managed to leave me laughing hysterically when playing Ernesto. It was Weis who seemed to make the most of her time on stage. Her characters were funny and had distinct characteristics that were unique to them.
Of the five courses we experienced, the Latin entrée was by far my favorite. It seemed to really showcase each actor's at their best, while the other four courses seemed to leave one person hanging each time.
Now, I don't usually comment on other pieces of a show---lately I have---but for some reason, there were a few technical and execution details that continued to bug me throughout. I'll start with the costumes. A costume should make the actor look and feel their best and while they may have felt their best, they didn't look the best. To put it blatantly, most of the pieces were quite unflattering on the actors, but this my humble opinion, and if the world disagrees, well I guess I'm wrong.
Another problem that seemed to nag me was choreography. I'm all for a campy two-step or a well executed weave pattern but not every song, every time. It was a whole lot of weaving and standing---it should also be mentioned that if a routine leaves an actor winded, maybe it's just time to throwin the towel and find a nice spot for them to "park and bark" the song in play.
Finally, the word "transition" rushes to mind. I can't stand seeing stagehands during a performance. I know that changing a set without the help of expensive technology is difficult but still, I don't want to see it. I don't want to watch people awkwardly change tablecloths or flip doors to make new doors; it takes the focus from the performance and pulls me from the moment. Maybe a quick conversation with the lighting designer or a little restaging could solve those problems but again, I don't want to see it.
While the last three to four paragraphs seem harsh, I still enjoyed the production. I think as it settles into its run it will only improve. The audience on Sunday wasn't exactly the most responsive crowd---I think it was so cold outside, people forgot how to clap---so that's another factor that might have caused the show to feel a little lacking.
Ultimately, I'd say grab a date and swing by the New Century Theatre to see FIVE COURSE LOVE if you've got the time. It's a quick and funny show that doesn't get the name recognition it deserves.
FIVE COURSE LOVE with music, book and lyrics by Gregg Coffin and directed by Steven Meerdink plays now through February 16th.
New Century Theatre, 615 Hennepin Avenue - Street Level, Minneapolis, hennepintheatretrust.org
Photo Credit: Amanda Weis, Joseph Pyfferoen, and Ryan McGuire Grimes. Directed by Steven Meerdink, musical direction by Suzanne Reyburn, costume design by Joshua Stevens. Photo by Laurie Etchen.