BWW Review: Romantic Farce LIVING ON LOVE Highlighted by Brilliant Writing, Direction and Operatic Performance Perfection
Joe DiPietro's play LIVING ON LOVE, based on the play "Peccadillo" by Garson Kanin, is now onstage as the second show in Torrance Theatre Company's 25th anniversary season in historic downtown Torrance. This brilliantly written romantic farce takes place in an upscale Manhattan penthouse owned by the Maestro Vito De Angelis and his wife, the opera diva Raquel De Angelis, each convinced they are the best in the world at what they do. And pity the fool who attempts to convince either one otherwise!
Continuously at odds about "who is better at what," it takes two comedically competent actors who can beautifully sing opera and walk the thin line between character and caricature to make these two self-centered talents come to life onstage. And without a doubt, director Perry Shields found them in Daniel Tennant and Allison McGuire who not only enchant with their amazing voices but fabulously demonstrate the true meaning of being a "diva" to the utmost heights.
Attempting to tame the two wild beasts proves to be quite a challenge and the backbone of the play. We first meet the young ghostwriter, Robert Samson (Joshua Short, a recent transplant from West Virginia making his L.A. stage debut), who has been attempting for weeks to write the autobiography of the Maestro. To Robert's frustration and the publisher's dismay, the Maestro is constantly late to interviews or making up stories about his remarkable love life and many conquests. The Maestro even mocks Robert for not having a girlfriend or drinking wine, two things the Maestro is convinced will calm poor Robert's nervous nature. Tennant shines during these scenes, being both enchanting and disgusting at the same time with his over-the-top comedic perfection. Short meticulously fuels the comedy every time he explodes into an assortment of twitches while babbling incessantly.
Soon we learn the main reason that Robert stays on the project is because he is obsessed with the Maestro's opera singer wife. And from the moment Raquel "call me Diva" sets eyes upon him, he is putty in her hands as well as her bed, if she has her way with him! And what man could resist McGuire in the marvelously sexy and regal costumes designed by Bradley Allen Lock? In fact, all the costumes were perfectly matched to the personalities of each character, beautifully fitted and color-coordinated.
Meanwhile, the Maestro feels that he deserves nothing less than Ernest Hemmingway writing his biography, not a youngster who just wants to be close to his wife. And as a result of their push-me pull-you one-upmanship, when Raquel hires Robert to write her memoirs, which she claims will be so much better and be done much faster than his. After an angry fit involving the throwing of many silver spoons, The Maestro counters by hiring Iris Peabody (Mallory Erwin), the young editing assistant sent over by his publisher to get the first draft of his book, which does not yet exist. But of course, the first time the two ghost writers' eyes meet, sparks fly, but how can they manage to be together when each is at the beck and call of their self-absorbed bosses?
Orchestrating the chaos in the De Angelis penthouse are their strict and loyal manservants, Bruce and Eric (Adam Schwartz and Felipe Echerri, both also talented opera singers with perfect comic timing). They dress alike, finish each other's sentences, know the best ways in which to please their demanding employers, and know personally about how the power of love can keep even the most ill-tempered couple together. Director Shields brilliantly has the two perform all set changes between scenes, adding in an entertaining "behind-the-scenes" look at their world.
Ultimately LIVING ON LOVE is just that: an examination of the ways in which two people so perfect for each other can place roadblocks in the way of their happiness as a couple, until recognizing the importance of love in their lives - times three! It's a rollicking good time with six perfectly cast actors embodying the hearts, souls, tempers and tantrums to a comedic tee from moment to moment. Be ready to laugh out loud from start to finish!
I can honestly say I really enjoyed this show, a very well-written face performed to perfection by actors who can sing opera beautifully. Kudos to the entire production team for a job well done, starting at the top with Perry Shields' tour-de-force direction. And oh yes, there is the Diva's adorable, scene-stealing fur baby Puccini, played by the ultra-calm, costume-wearing Stella in her theatrical debut.
LIVING ON LOVE performances continue through December 8 on Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm, Thursdays at 7pm (followed by Q&A), with one more Saturday matinee on December 7 at 2pm. Please note there are no performances November 28 - December 1. All performances take place at Torrance Theatre Company, located at 1316 Cabrillo Ave, Torrance 90501, in the heart of the historic downtown district. General admission tickets are $30, available online at TorranceTheatreCompany.com or via phone at 424-243-6882.
The Torrance Theatre Company is a program of the Cultural Services Division of the Torrance Community Services Department, with Producing Artistic Director Gia Jordahl and Associate Producer Rachel Baumstein as liaisons. More information at www.TorranceCA.Gov. Sponsored in part by Friends of Torrance Theatre Company. LIVING ON LOVE is presented through special arrangement with Dramatists Play Services Inc. New York, NY.
Photo Credit: Miguel Elliot