Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Thinking Cap Theatre: Love Burns (2 reviews)

Thinking Cap Theatre opened its production of Love Burns at Empire Stage, on May 10, 2012.
LOVE BURNS brings together contemporary dramatic comedy, live music, freshly brewed coffee, and delicious desserts. Date with a Stranger and All about Al, two hilarious one-act plays by NYC-based playwright Cherie Vogelstein will form the foundation of the evening. Both set in a NYC coffee house, the plays explore romantic relationships, from the exhilarating jolt of a first meeting to the precarious contemplation of a break up.
Nicole Stodard directed a cast that included Mark Della Ventura, David Michael Sirois, Shira Abergel, and Ashley Price.

John Thomason reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
There's something warm and inviting about the interactive atmosphere, which immerses ticket-buyers into the kumbaya pleasantry of a small hippie java joint. But are the bells and whistles of Love Burns enough to make up for the thin — if anorexic — amount of live theater you actually get for your money?
I would be surprised if the first act runs longer than 15 minutes... Titled Date With a Stranger, it stars Ashley Price and David Michael Sirois...  The characters are too much like fictional constructs to be taken seriously, and emotional connection is nil. This kind of arch meta-theater struck me as profound in college, but it looks ever more juvenile today. The piece is wonderfully executed, for what it's worth — the two actors never seem to miss a beat, and it's awfully easy to miss one — but the result should have been a lot funnier to justify the labored form.
Luckily, the second show is a total 180 from the first. Written by the same playwright, Cherie Vogelstein, but in a more naturalistic style, All About Al is a generous showcase for the comic talents of Mark Della Ventura...  He has a chance coffeehouse meeting with Gil (Sirois again)...  The two actors have a magical, Martin-and-Lewis rapport, with Della Ventura as the wacky banana man and Gil the sulky straight man; they deserve credit simply for making it through the scenario without laughing. Every joke hits with perfect accuracy, and Della Ventura even injects something unexpected into the denouement: tragic pathos. Love Burns could have begun stronger, but director Stodard knows exactly where to end it.
Christin Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Like nearly every theater company, Thinking Cap Theatre has a mission statement. Founder and artistic director Nicole Stodard aims to present “…experimental, provocative and socially conscious work…plays that tell compelling stories in fresh and surprising ways.” With its newest offering at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage, the young company is doing just that.
Choosing two short relationship plays by Cherie Vogelstein, Stodard creates an environmental evening that gets its own umbrella title, Love Burns. The director sets the plays, Date With a Stranger and All About Al, in a Starbucks-like coffee place called Hip Sip. The observant barista is played by Shira Abergel, who strums a ukulele or guitar as she croons songs about love and its flip side before, between and after the plays.
All About Al is two guys sometimes getting graphic about sex vs. intimacy. The actors’ real-life, long-time friendship feeds into their easy back-and-forth, Sirois embodying a guy who has it all in the romance department, Della Ventura sweetly appealing as the kind of shy guy who gets overlooked by women. Gil gains insight, but you can’t help feeling that, unlikely as the matchup might seem, Al would be better off with Lenny.

Love Burns takes disparate elements – a pair of edgy comedies, songs that range from creepy to dreamy, good-quality coffeehouse fare – to create an accessible experience that reflects what Thinking Cap is all about
Thinking Cap Theatre plays Love Burns at Empire Stage through May 26.

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