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  • Stephanie Kulke

Remy Bumppo’s “Love Song” is a poetic lesson in loving life

To me, the best plays have characters that in elevated moments speak the language of poetry.

And as a poetry teacher told me once, poems don’t require that we get everything there is to get

from them at once to enjoy them.

Remy Bumppo Theatre Company’s production (through April 21 at Theater Wit) of “Love Song”

by John Kolvenbach is a good example of such a play.

The four characters in “Love Song” are at their most unpoetic at the start of the play. Joan

(Sarah Coakley Price) is a hard as nails boss who vents to her husband about incompetent

interns while drinking copious glasses of wine. Husband Harry (Ryan Hallahan) like the good

sport that he is, bats back every complaint Joan makes to get her to see the situation from

another angle – namely her part.

In the middle of this boisterous sparring enters the emotionally self-contained Beane (Terry

Bell), Joan’s brother. Where sister Joan clearly enjoys being in command, and effortlessly

unleashes anger and affection with these two intimates, Beane is more of a cipher. He has a

mundane job, he dresses plainly, and he takes what is said around him quite literally. He lives

alone, is bereft of possessions, curiosity, or companionship other than Joan’s and Harry’s.

Beane is quite literally an empty soul.

Into this fixed triangle enters the chaotic force Molly (Isa Arciniegas). A nihilistic burglar, she has

broken into Beane’s apartment, dressed in his clothes, and hostilely interrogates him about his

lack of possessions.

Turns out Molly hates materialism, pretension, social mores, and status seeking. The

disengaged Beane is smitten.

And this is where the prose in “Love Song” begins to sing. Beane and Molly speak their strange

and beautiful love language to each other. Beane’s senses and imagination, ignited by Molly,

completely change the way he interacts with the world around him.

Sister Molly is alarmed and suspicious about the dramatic turnaround in Beane…and yet,

Beane’s transformation and elevated feelings and language are contagious.

Director Marti Lyons gets terrific physical comedy and dramatic language performances out of

her cast of four. The set by Joe Schermoly is sophisticated and clever and features a realistic

downtown high-rise view beautifully lit by Liz Gomez. Helping to establish the ambiance is a

soundtrack of silly love songs and original music by sound designer Christopher Kriz.

At this point I should disclose I am a Remy Bumppo subscriber and worked on the

administrative staff from 2002 to 2010. And while Lyons is the fourth artistic director to helm the

company, Remy Bumppo has been steadfast in its mission to present plays that explore life’s

moral and ethical complexities with language that “thrills the ear and stirs the heart.” An

immense pleasure of seeing these types of works at Remy Bumppo is experiencing them in the

intimate space of Theatre Wit in the hands of bright young Chicago talent.

What is Love Song about? And is the mysterious Molly a real person or a figment of Beane’s

imagination? That, dear reader, would be like forcing my interpretation of a poem on you.

My one piece of advice is this: don’t seek a literal interpretation of Love Song. As I watched

Beane’s transformation, I found myself thinking about what it is that I love most in the world. And

how feeding that passion can spill over into my relationships with others.

Love Song is a poetic lesson in loving life.

Love Song is playing Thursdays through Sundays at Theater Wit, 1229 West Belmont, Chicago , IL for tickets and information go to

Photo credit: Sarah Coakley Price and Terry Bell by Nomee Photography

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