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Barbara Haas on RedHouse Lovesong

A romantic comedy by John Kolvenbach at Redhouse through May 18:

By Barbara Haas

"Lovesong," a sassy little comedy with a sweet message, is now making its East coast debut at Redhouse. It's easy to see why Laura Austin, a fine actress who currently makes up half of the Redhouse's staff of two, chose this highly original play to get their theater program back on track.

Playwright John Kolvenbach quickly tells us all we need to know about his characters. Joan, played with great fluidity and naturalness by Austin, is an uptight professional woman who complains that she's besieged by "dipshit imbeciles." Her husband Harry (Joseph Whelan) is incredulous that she fired her assistant over a bad stapling job. Harry worries that Joan's brother Beanne (Zach Chase) is strange -- something we already know, because in the silent opening scene, we saw the apartment ceiling of John Czajkowki's clever set closing in its fearfully cowering tenant.

In one of the many comic scenes, Harry doesn't get very far when he tries to confirm his hunch about his brother-in-law by giving him a multiple-choice psychological test. One of the choices for the first question (A friend gives you a birthday present in a wrapped-up box. What might be in the box?") is a baby. A baby? Inside a box? Any normal test-taker would know to reject that absurd suggestion, but Beane is disturbed by the idea. How would it breathe? Director Peter Moller paces the scene well, so in the end it's Harry who ends up frothing with frustration.

Beane is unquestionably strange, but his reactions are often the more sensible. Joan begins to worry when her withdrawn brother suddenly begins to talk his head off. He's fallen in love! He opens up to people, even to the waiter (Phil Brady) at lunch where Joan tries to draw him out. Certainly it's strange to ask about the waiter' s personal life ("Do you play an instrument?") but it's Joan who acts crazy when she throws a sissyfit and orders the waiter to get out.

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