Quick, what's your relationship status? Actor/playwright John Cariani (Law & Order's Julian Beck) dials through every possible combination in the nine vignettes that make up Love/Sick, including first love, marriage, pregnant (or not), infidelity and divorce.
It's labeled a dark comedy but Kelsey McMillan (Becky Shaw), who is directing the Houston premiere for Firecracker Productions, says Love/Sick leaves audience members feeling upbeat, in spite of the sadness that often comes with failed relationships. "It's going to be OK. Things happen for a reason," says McMillan.
"All the scenes take place on the same evening in the same town, the same suburban town. Nine different couples; each scene sort of chronicles a different pivotal moment in relationships," says McMillan. You start off with a couple who have just met for the first time, falling into the trap of love at first sight, and at the end of the show you have a couple divorce. In between you have cheating, [the question of] do you want to have children.
"Every scene is funny and also isn’t, if that makes sense. It’s a lot of making light about not necessarily dark situations, but sad situations. Making light of it, you realize that 'life happens.'"
McMillan says this script has almost the opposite viewpoint of Cariani's earlier play, the critically-acclaimed Almost, Maine, which has been produced more than 2,500 times since its 2004 debut.
"Each one of these scenes deals with a sticking point in a relationship: trying to be happy, trying to make it work," says McMillan. "Even though there might be scenes that show the onset of a breakup or a relationship not working out, we want people to walk out knowing that’s OK. It’s not a tragedy. We don’t want people to walk out really depressed. It’s an insight into the fact that things sometimes work out, sometimes don't."
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When McMillan directed Gina Gionfriddo’s Becky Shaw in 2016, our Houston Press theater reviewer found it wickedly dark and funny. Darin Montemayor, whom we named a finalist as Best Actress in 2017's Houston Theater awards for her performance as Becky, stars in Love/Sick, along with fellow actor Nolan LeGault. Joining them on stage for Love/Sick are Samantha Walker, Eddie Edge, Paige Thomas and Nick Pinelli.
When Love/Sick was produced in New York at the Royal Family Performing Arts Space, director Chris Henry segued each two-person scene with choreographed dancers. It will be interesting to see what staging McMillan gives the Houston premiere.
Performances of Love/Sick are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, March 2-17, Obsidian Theater, 3522 White Oak, 832-889-7837, firecrackerproductions.org, $10 to $20.