Review: LOVE QUIRKS at AMT Theater

Performances through September 2nd

By: Jul. 13, 2022
Review: LOVE QUIRKS at AMT Theater
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Review: LOVE QUIRKS at AMT Theater
Lauren Testerman, Erin Lamar,
Matthew Schatz, Maggie McDowell
(Photo: Mark Childers)

You can't hurry LOVE QUIRKS. After a 27-month hiatus due to the 2020 pandemic, the award-winning musical has returned to off-Broadway with 18 songs and some timely Tinder wisdom: being "single and ready to mingle" means recognizing quirks, ignoring smirks, and rejecting jerks.

The 90-minute show's range of up-tempo duets, poignant solos, and harmonized quartets explores the risks and rewards of pursuing love in contemporary New York City. Four characters, each having been burned by love more than once, intersect in quarters so tight that all conversation (and any potential fraternization) is everyone's business.

Platonic roommates Stephanie (Lauren Testerman) and Lili (Maggie McDowell) share an apartment that has recently been vacated by Ryan (Erin Lamar), a gay teacher who is Grindr-savvy and hopeful that "the eighth time's a charm." Chris (the incoming heterosexual roommate played by Matthew Schatz), has a relationship history that includes an ex-fiancé who still has his grandmother's ring. He's straight-but-not-narrow, feeling wounded, and more in his element at a Yankees game than playing the field.

Without exception, the ensemble is strong from start to finish. Along the way, Lamar delivers understatedly some of the funniest songs: "Straight Boys," "Um, Yeah" and "Haven't You Noticed" (a duet with McDowell). In "...Noticed," the optimistic Lili downplays several clues and cues of her partner's gay identity. Finally adopting a new affirming frame of mind, she chooses an alternative to "louses with spouses" -- a nap.

Although Seth Bisen-Hersh's music and lyrics do most of the heavy lifting around relationships, Mark Childers' book also digs up some roots to gender conflict. Describing a disturbing concession stand situation at a baseball game, Stephanie says "He did not touch me but yes it was harassment. The things that came out of his mouth. That he thought that would work on any woman, anywhere. Tell me something. Where do men learn pickup lines?"

CHRIS: "Middle school."

Testerman won me over with two very different but equally powerful songs: "I'm Not Interested" and "Waking," the former describing the need for rebuffing advances while the latter reveals more about her internal growth: "So many changes, I floundered my dream. Lost my self-confidence and self-esteem. I lost the girl who I used to be. Something I couldn't foresee...I woke up no longer me."

Much of what gives LOVE QUIRKS its emotional resonance is the intimate space in which the actors perform. Whether they're in their apartment, a row of Yankee Stadium seats, giving a Zoom lecture on gender studies, in a therapist's office, or on a first date, the focus remains on their core conflict of looking for love in all the right and wrong places. There is history, there is herstory, and there is a story yet to be discovered.

The show's sound lands with full force; in the performance I attended, some mic-boosted high notes got lost in volume. I later listened to the soundtrack on a streaming platform and savored the playful lyrics, vocal arrangements, and orchestrations.

The red, white, and black set from Josh Iacovellli includes some digital urban projections that add to the "love letter to NYC" vibe. And it's a love letter that never gets old. Nearly 26 years have passed since the now-classic I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE started its legendary run at the Westside Theater. Tinder didn't exist then; neither did Grindr. But what better place than in the city that never sleeps to venture out for LOVE QUIRKS?

The foursome's invitation is sincere: "Let's be completely clichéd in love. Having it made in love. Loving and loved, adored and adoring. I am waiting, I'm imploring to be in love."

LOVE QUIRKS won four 2021 Broadway World Off-Broadway Awards, including Best Production of a Musical, Best New Score, Best New Book, and Best Direction of a Musical. The musical features a score by Seth Bisen-Hersh, book by Mark Childers, and is directed by Brian Childers. LOVE QUIRKS runs through September 2nd with performances on Thursdays at 7pm, Fridays - Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $49 - $79 and can be purchased at HERE. The original off-Broadway cast recording is available on all streaming platforms.


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