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Reka Productions

Luv: A Comedy about Love, Divorce, and All Things Suicide Related

Dates 23 November - 3 December 2005, 8pm nightly Venue Havana Theatre, 1212 Commercial Reviewer June Heywood

LUV poster

A few more than 20 people attended the second night's performance of Murray Schigal's black comedy, LUV in the tiny Havana Theatre tucked behind the popular Havana Restaurant.

The play concerns four people, three of whom we see on stage. Act One opens in 1964 with Milt Manvill (Chris Bancroft) coming upon his college friend, Harry Berlin (Dean Wunsch) about to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge in eastern Europe. Harry's life appears to be filled with failures. He has no job, he's squandered his inheritance, and, although he's "been around the world twice" he's "not found love."

Milt informs Harry that he has a successful business, a big house, money in the bank, and a five-year marriage. However, both former friends are miserable.
Black humour creeps in as they exchange childhood hard luck stories. Harry lived with his harsh grandparents who were so mean they locked him out of the house in the cold. Lacking the experience of love in his life, Harry freezes into psychosomatic paralysis at the mention of the word "Luv."

Milt's family was so poor that he didn't go to school until he was eight years old. Until then, he had no shoes. "Fortunately, a boy who lived down the road was hit by a truck". Milt inherited his shoes. But the shoes were so tight they affected how he walked and he was "put in a class for the disabled'. Milt tells Harry that "I'm more in love since the day I got married but my wife won't give me a divorce." He confesses that his marriage to Ellen (Christie Little) is a failure and that he's in love with Linda, a co-worker. Milt hatches a plan. He suggests that Harry meet Ellen hoping that they'll fall in love and she'll ask Milt for a divorce.

Enter Ellen. Visual humour ensues as, under the lamplight in silence Milt fixes her hair and make-up. As they sit on a bench to talk about their marriage, Ellen produces a graph. It shows how often they've had sex of late and the line has gone down sharply. But Ellen still refuses to give him a divorce saying, "We must make the best of it."

Milt leaves. Ellen sings a sorrowful love song to herself. Then she sees Harry. They exchange childhood horror stories. Ellen dances and sings her haunting love song again as she twins her body around the lamppost. Harry's smitten and declares his love. He tests her love for him by acts including stamping on her foot; tearing her dress; and throwing her fur coat in the river. Ellen tests Harry's love by hitting him; pulling his pants down (to show illustrated boxer shorts -- to the laughter of the audience); and taking his jacket. Harry proposes marriage. Ellen accepts. Milt's relieved his plan has worked so he can marry Linda.

The male actors flubbed their lines once or twice. One time, one called the other his character's name. Occasionally, words were slurred. "Jusmeeda" took a while to translate to "Just meet her." And at the start of the first act, the men's body language was stilted.

Act Two: four months later. Milt and Ellen bump into each other. He has married Linda whom he now despises. Ellen has married Harry. She admits, "Our marriage is a joke." Harry's gone completely crazy. He "lies in the corner of the living room rocking with a paper bag over his head," Ellen tells Milt.

Milt admits he's in love again. He shows Ellen a picture of her then sings the theme love song. Ellen falls for Milt again. They set about trying to murder Harry. But killing Harry is impossible. Milt is the one who falls into the river, twice. He returns to the stage, in different costumes, after a splash and an annoying bang of the stage door.

Harry gets crazier -- eating a banana squatting on the bench; putting on a flowered bathing cap; and going into a psychosomatic catatonic state again. Finally, Milt asks Ellen to choose between Harry and him. She links arms. Milt and Ellen exit together.

There are verbal and physical gags worth catching in this comedy. If you have a free evening, it's worth a visit to the Havana Theatre and Restaurant.

2005 June Heywood