UW-Waukesha’s ‘Love/Sick’ a healthy dose of amour

Kevin (Brett McAlister) and his wife Jill (Eli Buran) discuss having in a baby in “Forgot,” one of nine short skits in “Love/Sick” presented by the Lunt-Fontanne Ensemble of UWM at Waukesha.

Kevin (Brett McAlister) and his wife Jill (Eli Buran) discuss having in a baby in “Forgot,” one of nine short skits in “Love/Sick” presented by the Lunt-Fontanne Ensemble of UWM at Waukesha.



Published Oct. 22, 2018

Love and relationships have been explored in many theatrical productions throughout the years.

The Lunt-Fontanne Ensemble of UWM at Waukesha, under the direction of Steven Decker, takes another shot at these subjects as it presents “Love/Sick,” by John Cariani, which looks at couples in nine short skits. It has the feel and look of “Almost, Maine,” also written by Cariani, without the northern setting and excessive quirkiness. Rather than Maine, this show is more centered on a mega-market – called the SuperCenter. Like “Almost, Maine,” most performers play more than one role.

Decker has assembled a fine group of young performers, playing characters baring their hearts and souls as they navigate some tricky territory in their relationships. There is poignancy, comedy, tenderness, irony, lots of wordplay and more than a tinge of the aforementioned “Almost, Maine” quirkiness. Each segment has a lot to say in a very short time. I actually enjoyed this more than “Almost, Maine” which relies a lot on gimmicks for its humor. There is a lot more humanity here.

Bored to death

This fine cast does a really good job with all the scenarios, which require a wide range of emotions and comedy, including physical comedy.

My favorite was a bit called “Uh-Oh,” played by Jessica Mayer and Benjamin Marn as Sarah and Bill, who have been married for a year-and-a-half. Both are seated on the couch with their devices when Sarah announces she is bored. Bill doesn’t look too worried until Sarah tells him that she read that people who are bored in a marriage often want to kill their partners. Bill, goes back to his movie. professing that he will always love her, until Sarah pulls out a gun telling him she thinks she is one of those people she’s read about. She chases him around the couch before squirting him with a squirt gun, and then doubles over with laughter. He, however, is not as amused.

Mayer really sells her character, drawing in the audience as she casually explains her malaise and – as it turns out – fake report to an indifferent Bill. Marn, too, transforms from comfortable and device-focused to totally terrorized as he stares down the barrel of a gun, albeit one that shoots water.

Almost ‘Almost, Maine’

I also enjoyed Mayer in the opening skit, “Obsessive Impulsive,” in which she plays a woman at the market who spots a man (Brett McAllister), a stranger, and instantly feels a connection. He feels the same way as they both converse in tandem, their words in sync with each other for much of the dialogue. They both realize they have the same disorder as the cling to each other and then discuss how their ailment has affected their thoughts and impulses. Nicely done by both.

Several skits especially had “Almost, Maine” fingerprints all over them. In “What!?!,” Ben (Romesh Alex Jaya) visits his friend, Andy, (Hunter West) and realizes he has fallen in love. Every time he tells Andy he loves him, Andy has a dramatic physical reaction – such as loss of hearing. When Andy tries to say the same himself, he sounds like he has had a stroke, the words coming out garbled. West is hilarious as he tries to explain his dilemma to his friend and gets more and more animated. Jaya is marvelous as the patient Ben, expressing his feelings, including confusion, with Andy’s bizarre reactions. The ending is most touching.

In “Forgot,” Jill (Ellie Buran) points out to her husband of nine years, Kevin (McAlister), the date she’s had earmarked on her calendar to have a baby. “We’ve been too busy to have a baby,” Kevin points out. Buran nicely portrays Jill’s sense of desperation as she realizes that her window of opportunity is closing, while McAlister’s Kevin remains thoughtful. It is a most thought-provoking piece, nicely delivered.

Not a love song

Jaya and Melissa Hammen appear as a couple discussing their luncheon choices that turn out to be a metaphor for their love lives. The pair easily handle Cariani’s clever dialog that weaves their carnal hunger into their lunch and dinner discussion.

In “The Answer,” Gabrielle Adam and McAlister play a couple on their wedding day. The groom, Keith, is hiding in the bathroom, suffering from the figurative “cold feet.” The bride, Celia, tries to understand his dilemma and they both realize they have never expressed their commitment. Adam and McAlister dial through a whole range of emotions en route to a surprising conclusion.

All the skits were really well-done, including “The Singing Telegram,” in which Marn plays the messenger who must convey unpleasant information to a woman (Buran) who is expecting something different.  Marn’s reluctant rendition of the song is quite good and his lead-in quite funny, playing off the over-the-moon Buran, excited about what she is expecting to happen.

Unpacking emotions

Another piece that reminded me of “Almost, Maine” is “Where Was I?” in which a stay-at-home mom (Cheryl Peterson) complains to her hard-working wife (Katy Weis) as she rummages through boxes, “I’ve lost myself.” The two discuss their arrangement and Abbie soon realizes she’s “looked in all the wrong places.” A lot going on here, with Peterson and Weis hitting the right emotional pitches.

The final piece, “Destiny,” finds two people who were once a couple, Emily (Hammen) and Keith (West), running into each other at the SuperCenter. The two, currently unattached, literally reconnect, which leads to lots of amorous exchanges in the aisles. The scene could have been paced a little better, but both Hammen and West do well with the physical comedy.

For each scene, Decker uses simple, clean, easily movable pieces that are handled efficiently by the crew and work well for the show.

If you go

Who: Lunt-Fontanne Ensemble at UWM at Waukesha

What: “Love/Sick”

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25, 26

Where: UW-Waukesha, 1500 N. University Drive, Waukesha

Info/Tickets: 262-521-5212