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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Love Song
New Ambassador's Theatre      Winter 2006-2007

John Kolvenbach's new play is an amiable little rom com that might make a pleasant TV show or even a modest date movie, but that sometimes seems lost up there on a stage. Still, if you're in the right mood and don't expect too much, it offers some pleasures in its 90 minutes.

Beane (Cillian Murphy) is an odd young man living somewhere near the intersection of schizophrenia and autism, so lost within himself that he can barely relate to anyone or anything outside until he comes home one night and encounters burglar Molly (Neve Campbell).

Since she is the nearest thing to an event that has happened to him in a long time, it's not all that surprising that he decides he's in love with her. Somewhat less explicably, she falls for him.

And suddenly birds sing and flowers smell and food tastes, and Beane comes fully awake to the joys of living.

There are some strange plot twists along the way, most of which you'll spot just before they happen, and a slightly misty-eyed happy ending.

There's also a subplot of Beane's sister (Kristen Johnston) and her husband (Michael McKean), whose ordinary but slightly tired marriage is reinvigorated by their exposure to Beane's happy transformation.

All very sweet and frequently comic, but the material is too fragile, John Crowley's direction too wooden, and one of the four performances too invisible for the play to stay alive longer than the occasional scene.

There's a very lovely sequence in which the usually businesslike Johnston and McKean allow themselves the naughty luxury of phoning in sick to stay in bed, but a parallel scene in which Murphy and Campbell make love through creating a fairy tale version of their meeting just lies there.

Cillian Murphy is far more successful than you might think possible in making what is essentially a very creepy guy both real and sympathetic, and Johnson and McKean, both veterans of American TV sitcoms, smoothly and efficiently inhabit their characters.

But the role of Molly is woefully underwritten, and Neve Campbell brings nothing to it, either to help make it make sense or to make us care.

Ultimately, for plot-twist reasons I won't give away, the play is a fable or fairytale, depending entirely on our good will and our ability to get caught up in its magic.

It might work for you, though I suspect you will have my experience of seeing what they were trying to do but having to settle for the incidental pleasures along the way.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  Love Song - Ambassadors Theatre 2006
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