There’s something strangely endearing about the Down Stage Right Productions’ presentation of What About Luv?, currently on stage at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island, in what can only be described as an odd little musical comedy nugget about depression, infidelity and suicide.
Given its light-hearted approach to some pretty heavy subject matter, it isn’t hard to see how there is a real potential here for failure. Fortunately, with the tremendous talents of Neil Minor, Scott Walters and Meghan Gardiner and direction from Mark Carter, there is a nice balance between the misery of their characters and the humour from Jeffrey Sweet’s text and Susan Birkenhead’s lyrics.
Harry (Minor) is ready to throw in the towel and throw himself from a bridge. Just as he is about to jump he is saved by Milt (Walters), an old school friend. Problem is, Milt is just as unhappy as Harry but his unhappiness comes from his unfulfilling marriage to Ellen (Gardiner). Milt wants out of the marriage to pursue a new woman in his life and believes he has found the perfect solution: play matchmaker to Ellen and Harry so that he can move on.
By the end of the show, all three are variously saved or helped over the bridge railing with the final realization that perhaps you don’t know what you have lost until it is (potentially) gone.
Minor, Walters and Gardiner give us three very distinct characters. Minor channels a sort of OCD manic depressive with a love for paper bags, Walters gives us a Milt who is just the right amount of likeable reprobate, and Gardiner’s Ellen is near perfect as one of the real housewives of New Jersey with a Mensa membership. All three relish in bringing these characters to life giving us a fine balance between what makes them simultaneously reprehensible and endearing.
And boy can this trio sing, making easy work of Howard Marren’s sometimes intricate music. Special kudos to Gardiner who we were told had just the night before suffered from laryngitis and still managed to give a wonderful performance.
While choreographer Ken Overbey gives the three actors many opportunities to show off their capabilities, I must admit that at times it felt a little over-choreographed, sometimes giving the impression that there was very little spontaneity on stage.
John Bessette gave us a beautiful, and believable, bridge set. Sound did appear to be a bit of an issue last night with the actor’s voices being thrown to the speakers above and to each side of the stage. During intermission we moved from our aisle seat to the middle of the house which helped with some of the balance.
It’s hard to believe that this is the first DSR Productions show I have seen, given the company is celebrating twenty years in 2010. But after watching this delightfully oddball production, it is not hard to see why this group has endured.
What About LUV?
4 – 13 November 2010
Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island