A fine example of 60s comedy but something feels missing.
Luv first appeared in London at The Arts Theatre before moving to Broadway where it was Tony-nominated and later adapted into a film starring Jack Lemmon and 50 years on it returns to the city in a production by The Buckland Theatre Company. It feels very much a stage response to films like The Apartment or Pillow Talk but has a dark and absurdist turn.
Murray Schisgal’s LUV is a 1960s riotous celebration of the absurd lengths we go to when struck down with the terrible affliction known as love. Harry (Charles Dorfman) is a misfit who, as he is about to throw himself off a New York bridge, reunites with Milt (Nick Barber). Milt is on appearance tidier, more successful and seems to have made more of his life since they were are college 15 years ago but Milt is deeply unhappy. He loves Linda but being married to Ellen (Elsie Bennett) who believes strongly in the sanctity of marriage and refuses to grant Milt his divorce. Milt has brought a knife and only sees one way out until he considers making Harry fall in love with Ellen.
I found the first half quite dry. It is humorous but there is an air that it would suit being a musical better. It feels very dated as a piece of theatre; Bennett’s Ellen is an intelligent woman who just wants to be a housewife and whilst it is played for laughs I struggled with why I should come back and care about what happens to these characters in the second half.
Thankfully the second half improves. It is full of laughs, physical comedy and because we have got to know the characters we know they aren’t going to be happy but there is something missing. The performances by Bennett, Dorfman and Barber are strong and they’ve embraced the 60s style of acting and have strong comic timing but I didn’t ‘Luv’ it. It wants to be a Neil Simon story about an odd trio but they are just so odd that the chemistry isn’t quite there.
The set and costume design in the Park90 space by Max Dorsey is excellent. I particularly loved Ellen’s costumes; her first yellow white dress to her second half beatnik look and Christopher Naire’s lighting design really fits the mood but I have some issues with Gary Condes direction, it feels like the small space could have been used better, for example, I noticed that a lot of scenes happened on one side of the stage.
Overall if you love your 1960s comedies this is the play for you but it doesn’t quite satisfy.