Delightfully funny, “The Love List”
At the Theater with Audrey Linden
Norm Foster’s deliriously witty play, ‘The Love List” was a big hit with the Theater 40 audience on opening night. Not only did the three member cast get a standing ovation at the end of the play, they got another standing ovation, along with director Howard Storm as they walked into the opening night soiree. This was a laughter-filled play. Canadian playwright, Foster did it again. I had seen his “Opening Night” and “The Long Weekend” at Theater 40, but this comedy eclipses both of those. Besides Foster’s brilliant writing, there was Howard Storm’s deft direction and perfect comedic timing from the ensemble of three actors. The chemistry of the cast and the director made for a very delightful evening.
Jennifer Lee Laks (Justine) was recently seen in in Theater 40’s dark drama, “Night Watch” along with Martin Thompson (Leon), who had played her husband in that play. She also was in “Seven Stories” last season. Thompson was in Theater 40’s “Opening Night” and “Light Up the Sky”. John Combs (Bill) was in Theater 40’s “Opening Night” and “Light Up the Sky”. These actors had such camaraderie! They were fun to watch. Howard Storm, who previously directed many of our favorite television sit coms, and the list is far too long to include here, is a master of comedic timing and physical comedy. He brought out the best in his very talented trio. Howard Storm was cast in “Jimmy and Sam” which he co-wrote and in “The Last Romance”.
I loved Thompson’s Leon’s droll looks and dry wit. His meaningful pauses counterbalanced Combs’ nervous and nerdy Bill. His Leon was the perfect foil for civil servant Bill, who jumped up and down gleefully with childish impetuosity. Was Bill fifty going on five? Laks, perhaps had the harder job in bringing her Justine to life, especially in Act 2 in which she had to literally change character in a split second as the two men manipulated her. That was some mighty impressive acting from three very talented performers.
As Act 1 opened, Leon had celebrated Bill’s fiftieth birthday by taking him out to dinner. Bill is a divorced, nerdy statistician who lives to do his reports and has stacks of papers strewn about his apartment. It may look like a mess, but Bill knows what is in each stack. Leon, a novelist and philanderer, who has only remained faithful to his wife, Andrea for two years, has gifted Bill with a mate finding service from a gypsy matchmaker. Leon is determined that Bill “should not spend one more year without female companionship”. The two collaborate on creating a list of ten attributes that would make an ideal lady for Bill.
We immediately get the picture that Leon, who wants “oral sex” as number one on the list, “gorgeous”, and “big breasts”, “gives quiet time”, and “ambitious”, is a vain and shallow man who goes for the superficial. He convinces, Bill, whole leans more towards internal qualities as “humorous”, “Well-versed in many subjects”, “trust”, “unpredictable”, and most important, “enjoys kissing me”. They come up with the list of the ten characteristics for the ideal woman.
Fate, or some strange forces conspire to bring that very woman, curiously named Justine to Bill’s door. Odd, that “Justine” was the name of the one woman Bill really loved, who was killed in an accident. And, now, there is another gorgeous woman, named Justine at Bill’s door and next, in his arms, and later, in his bed. She even likes kissing him. And, we gather she is into #4 on the list. Curiously, she has all the qualities on Bill and Leon’s list. What is that all about? Anything to do with the gypsy? Hmmm, but Leon has not dropped the list off.
Bill is in heaven and convinced that his good friend has paid for this one evening of companionship and sex. Justine is well versed on many subjects including the statistics Bill works with. And, not only does Justine know all about Bill, she also knows all about Leon and Andrea, even minute details of their personal lives. It turns out Leon has not paid for Justine’s services. He is as perplexed as Bill, and as the audience. There were some holes in the story, but since they were delightful holes and the actors were giving charming and engaging performances, it didn’t matter. There were a few moments of ”Where is this going?” but who cared?
Inept Bill becomes “entirely ept”. Justine’s love threatens the men’s bond as Leon questions who this woman is. Bill calls Leon “a self-absorbed unfeeling adulterer.” Leon had wanted space from his wife, Andrea and she gave it to him while occupying her time for seven years with a lover. That is a shock to Leon, who finds it is was own publisher Andrea had been giving him space with. It is hard for Leon to accept his friend’s new-found love as his own wife leaves him.
The compliant Justine is everything Bill could want, until she begins to “speak her mind”. Yes, that is on the list. Bill begins to fall in love with her, even after she moves his piles of papers into the spare room. An angry Leon argues there is “one salient point you are overlooking.” “Who in the hell is she?” Aha! And, that is a good place to end this review as Act 1 ends. Justine could be the figment of Bill’s imagination, but she could not be the figment of both Bill and Leon. Could she? You will have to go see Norm Foster’s wonderful, wacky comedy to find out. It is a surprise that unfolds in Act 2.
Aside from the exceedingly witty dialogue, sharp one liners, and repartee, Foster does give us some insights in to what makes for a good romantic relationship as well as a good friendship. We need to accept our imperfections. And, maybe there is no “perfect” person for us. We have to work on relationships which have to do with both give and take. The old adage, “be careful what you ask for; you may get it” is a sub theme in this fun, suspend your belief comedy.
“The Love List” runs in tandem with “Educating Rita” at Theater 40 through June 20th. Theater 40 is a professional acting company located at the Beverly Hills High School campus in the Reuben Cordova Theater. 241 Moreno Dr. Beverly Hills. There is ample free parking in the structure. For show times and tickets, call 310-364-0535.
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,” “Wendy’s” etc. “Sensationails” commercial and print.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL and IMPROV COMEDY WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills. To register, call 310-285-6850. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. Her classes are on-going in June through July for summer. IMPROV COMEDY is 4 weeks starting June 9th through July 7th with no class June 30th. ON CAMERA COMMERCIALS starts June 5th and is 5 sessions through July 10th no class on July 3rdFor more information, go to www.beverlyhills.com/bhregonline and contact Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org