Playwright: Steve Lovett
At: Bailiwick Repertory, 1229 W. Belmont
Phone: (773) 883-1090; $20-$25
Runs through: Oct. 12
And You Sang to Me has its problems, yet like a flawed, but charming friend, it emerges as lovable, sweet, and entertaining despite its drawbacks. Let's get the drawbacks out of the way first, then I can tell you why you really should go out and see this show.
Playwright Steve Lovett has built a simple structure upon which to hang his themes of attraction, friendship, love, and the various stages of relationships. The play consists of three scenes, taking place in three separate rooms in a hotel that is playing host to a gay wedding. In the first room, a theater critic (Bob Pries) and his cabaret performer partner (Michael Reyes) squabble and make up in much the same way any couple together for 14 years would. In the second, antiques dealer and aesthete Nelson (Michael Pacas) is being forced to hole up with a young rube (Ben Osbun) who is, in reality, a diamond in the rough. And in the last, a pair of old friends (Brett Sears and Kevin Grubb) explores the limits, and joys of their long-standing friendship, a friendship that has outlived their many unsuccessful relationships.
OK, here's what doesn't work: the playwright has added in a little too much saccharine. Sometimes, this smart play veers into the Hallmark card variety of sentiment, to its detriment. The ending, in particular, when all six good friends get together, all of them having reached their own personal happy ending, toast their 'circle of friends.' I know this is a romantic comedy, but even Neil Simon injects a little vinegar into his stories. Next: there's a neat kind of parallel in each of the three scenes. Each pair of men are comprised of one high culture component and one pop culture component. Serious theatre critic, cabaret performer who does Burt Bacharach; antiques dealer, bait shop worker and rustic furniture builder; ad jingle writer fascinated with Disney, art teacher fascinated with serious music. Yes, the parallel is very tidy; it's also a yawn. Finally, the couple in the first scene, they of 14 years, need to be a little more credible. When one tells the other that he has never even 'looked at another man' in all their time together, my eyes just about rolled out of my head. Come on!
Enough quibbles. What's great about And You Sang to Me? Second scene. Michael Pacas, as the older, Frasieresque antiques dealer and Ben Osbun as the young uncultured-but-hungry-for-more southern man are a joy to watch. Pacas has created a richly textured character and for all the character's pompousness, does the incredible trick of making him lovable. Osbun, a recent Loyola grad, holds a tremendous amount of thespian promise if his turn here is any indication. He's genuine, real, and lovable. The chemistry between these two performers is the highlight of the show. What really helps, though, is that Lovett has done his best work here, creating a scene that builds confidently and delivers slyly, with a sexy wink, leaving us glad these two unlikely characters have found each other.
This standout scene alone is enough to make And You Sang to Me worth the price of admission.