February is a typical time when theatre companies put on plays that express the elements of romance (Valentine's Day). Many companies put on schmaltzy, romantic plays that appeal to generic tastes: overly cute and formulaic. Nonetheless, The Acting Studio and Chelsea Rep LAB not only celebrate Cupid and all his glory (and sickness) but they go way beyond any typical evening.
The Fairy Garden by the late-great Harry Kondoleon is a wonderfully strange play about the magical occurrences one summer afternoon in Dagny (Nathalie Vuckovic) and Boris (Shane Blodgett)'s fairy garden. The play begins with Dagny telling her friends and gay couple Roman (the impressive Joe McGowan) and Mimi (Gordon Smith) about her fling with the mechanic (R.J. Chesney) and that she must break it off with Boris. Things don't go as planned when Dagny murders Boris and a fairy (Jane Lowe) appears and begins to grant wishes for a price. Director Charlie Ritchie and his talented cast not only made the fantastic elements come alive but allowed the play to become extremely moving.
Lynette at 3 am by Jane Anderson is a tale of a couple - Lynette (the wonderful Addie O'Donnell) and Bobby (Eddie Markovich) - alone in bed. He is asleep; she cannot sleep. There is a gunshot. Suddenly the ghost of Estaban (Jay Vaides) appears. He is the neighbor who just killed himself. Director Tom Marion did a splendid job with his actors, who inhabited this surreal world effortlessly. The lighting (Alexandra Pontone) and the sound (Zeno Gill) illuminated the mood of the piece elegantly.
Last Chance Texaco by Peter Maloney is the most naturalistic of the three plays, but director Kym Gomes gave it a haunting quality. Ruth (Hillary High)'s car breaks down and she needs to get it fixed. At the garage where she seeks help, she meets Verna (Barbara Stanton-Hirst), a religious woman and her daughter Cissy (an excellent Geeda Searforce). Before the evening is over the play erupts into high drama when secrets are revealed about all three characters.
Program B of Love Sickness offered fine acting, directing, and three solid pieces. What was strong about the evening was that it brought out the magic of theatre any time of the year - not only in February.