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Renee Fleming and Douglas Sills Star in "Living On Love" at the Longacre Theatre
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Renee Fleming and Douglas Sills Star in "Living On Love" at the Longacre Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights


Scott Landis, Philip Morgaman
et al.
in association with Williamstown Theatre Festival
Present:

Renée Fleming, Douglas Sills
Anna Chlumsky, Jerry O’Connell

In
Living On Love
(Living On Love Website)

By Joe DiPietro
based on the play, Peccadillo by Garson Kanin

Directed by Kathleen Marshall

With Blake Hammond, Scott Robertson
and Trixie

At the
Longacre Theatre
220 West 48th Street
NY, NY
212.239.6200

Scenic Design: Derek McLane
Costume Design: Michael Krass
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound Design: Scott Lehrer
Hair & Wig Design: Tom Watson
Technical Supervision: Aurora Productions
Casting: Calleri Casting, James Calleri, CSA
Music Consultant: Rob Fisher
Production Stage Manager: Beverly Jenkins
Animal Trainer: William Berloni
Press/Marketing: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Advertising and Marketing: AKA
General Management: Bespoke Theatricals

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 23, 2015


In the scintillating snippets of operatic aria we hear from renowned soprano, Renée Fleming, in Joe DiPietro’s new play, Living On Love, any music aficionado would want to hear more. Instead, sadly, Ms. Fleming has been directed to let out a glass-shattering shriek, on several occasions; luckily, no crystal stemware cracked. It’s spring, 1957, we see in the show’s Playbill, and we’re looking at a Manhattan penthouse. The refined, sumptuous living room, designed in detail by Derek McLane, includes a far wall with framed opera portraits, presumably many of diva, Raquel De Angelis, Ms. Fleming’s character. Other portraits might include Vito De Angelis (Douglas Sills), Raquel’s husband, an Italian composer and conductor. Raquel is possessed with envy of Maria Callas, who’s a magnet for international operatic roles, and Vito is possessed with envy of Leonard Bernstein, who’s a magnet for commissioned scores, international conducting, and media spreads. The dialogue between the propulsive spouses is about to boil over into fiery mayhem. The stark contrast of campy/cranky narrative and visual lushness proceeds, as the plot thickens.

Vito takes on an assignment for some media buzz, the writing of his memoir. The publishing company sends Robert Samson (Jerry O’Connell), who’s there for his own selfish obsession, to meet Mrs. De Angelis, his artistic heroine. Alone on arrival, he reverently plays one of Raquel’s recital records. Raquel soon finds fascination, on her own, to spark insane jealousy within her husband, in the passion and exploitation of the youthful Robert. When the publishing company loses patience with lost deadlines, it sends an editorial assistant, Iris Peabody (Anna Chlumsky), to investigate. Immediately, Vito is all over the youthful Iris, until Iris and Robert sneak some private quality time. As one can imagine, the vain and vengeful Vito and Raquel relive their own youthfulness, mirrored in the eyes of their objects of desire. An additional plot twist includes Bruce (Blake Hammond) and Eric (Scott Robertson), the De Angelis’ butlers, who become the comedic high point of the show. Bruce and Eric play piano and sing “Makin’ Whoopee”, do a dance routine, here and there, and crack jokes with burlesquean timing. They also pour coffee and place florals.

Once more, I would have loved to hear one or two actual arias (or substantial segments) from Ms. Fleming, a lost opportunity. This audience, and most, I am sure, would have been thrilled in the moment. We did hear Ms. Fleming sing “Always”, with a string quartet, but, suffice it to say, this song was not in her operatic range. The over-the-top vaudevillian antics (e.g., Vito styles his hair in breakfast maple syrup to prepare for Iris) were more cringe-worthy than laugh-inducing, and, even as it was apparent that Vito and Raquel were deeply in love, unbeknownst to themselves, the “aha” moment was evocative of “The Honeymooners” 50’s skits. Mr. Samson and Ms. Chlumsky were more understated, but their performances were shallow, NOT because the actors are shallow, but because the stage direction did not spark magnetism.

Director, Kathleen Marshall, has a number of past Broadway successes, musicals like “Anything Goes” and “The Pajama Game”. In a non-musical, there’s no song and dance numbers to entertain, and, for a comedy, the script needs to be dynamite. Joe DiPietro also has successes, like “Nice Work If You Can Get It”, on which he teamed with Ms. Marshall, and he, and Ms. Marshall, will have other successes. However, Living On Love, in its current form, is living on stale champagne. Mr. McLane’s set, Mr. Krass’ satiny diva gowns, and Tom Watson’s wigs will hopefully find a new stage. Sound and lighting were divine. Kudos to Mr. Robertson and Mr. Hammond, and kudos to Trixie, the tiny dog, who played the pet, Puccini. (A positive note, the program listed all recorded music in the sound design, with composers, an impressive detail.)









For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net