Love Is A Song

Local Cast Questions What’s Real And What’s Fantasy

Posted: November 1, 2012

Tom Arthur has directed many plays throughout the years, but his latest production began somewhat differently than the others.

As professor emeritus of theater at James Madison University, he originally bought the play for use in his curriculum. “I was sitting, listening to it in the class, acting as a teacher, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to do this play.’ ”

The choice, with Valley Playhouse under his direction, comes to fruition Nov. 8-11 and 15-18 at the Arts Council of the Valley’s Court Square Theater at 61 Graham St., Harrisonburg.

The Play

A comedy by playwright John Kolvenbach, “Love Song” details the life of Beane — an oddball, played by Charlie Cook, a senior at JMU. Following a burglary at his apartment, Beane’s life changes in ways difficult for his well-meaning, and somewhat overbearing, sister to understand.

“[Beane] is lost, and suddenly, there’s this beautiful thing in his life — this beautiful woman [Molly] —and it changes everything,” explained Arthur.

Susan Comfort plays the role of Beane’s sister, Joan. “Things happen with Beane, and [Joan] discovers she comes alive in a way similar to the way he does,” she said.

After observing a change in Beane following the burglary, Joan looks for reason in her brother’s blissful happiness as she tries to uncover the mystery behind the new woman in his life, Molly.

Fantasy Or Fact

Kolvenbach’s off-beat comedy calls all forms of love into question, asking: Are the things that give us pleasure, whisk us off of our feet and propel us into new worlds real? Does it matter whether we partake of the real things, or simply seek out their effects as an exercise of the imagination?

“[‘Love Song’] is really charming and modern …  about the importance of having some fantasy, and the importance of love, which, I don’t think, is a fantasy,” said Arthur.

In addition to the fantasy aspect, the manner in which Kolvenbach wrote “Love Song” sets this play apart, says Arthur.

Comfort mentioned the lyrical nature of the lines. “It’s called ‘Love Song,’ but it’s written like a song and in the ways that songs express life and feelings.”

“The writing is crisp, it’s clear, it’s beautiful, it’s poetic,” added Arthur.

Their accolades aren’t exaggerations. The play was nominated for an Olivier Award, one of Britain’s most-sought after theater awards named for the actor, Laurence Olivier.

Reflection Of Life

Though arguably a play about fantasy, according to both director and cast, “Love Song” serves as a mirror in which the audience may see their own reflections.

“With any successful play, people can recognize bits and pieces of their own lives in characters. [‘Love Song’] is, ultimately, a very affirming story about the power of love, and the vulnerability of life and people’s psyches,” explained Comfort.

Arthur echoed this assessment of “Love Song” as a reflection of the human condition. “It’s about people who yearn. The yearning for everything, it’s just irresistible, isn’t it? People want their lives to be better and better.”

Comfort recommends slipping into the world of theater to alleviate some of the pressures of daily life.

“The economy affects decisions about picking and choosing activities …  because things are rough, it’s important to keep theater alive,” Comfort said. “It’s a great way to escape reality and problems for a while, and come enjoy a good laugh.”

A special Gala premiere will be performed 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7, as part of the Downtown Renaissance “Temptations at the Theater.” A pay-what-you-will night will be held Nov. 15. Participants are asked to make a charitable donation to the Valley Playhouse, a not-for-profit organization.

Tickets are $12 for adults; $10 for seniors, or groups of 10 or more; $8 for students, with valid college ID, and can be purchased either at the door, or online at www.courtsquaretheater.com.

Contact Kate Kersey at 574-6218 or kkersey@dnronline.com.