We gave it a C-
What happens when two idealistic but selfish young people meet in 1967, get married, take high-paying white-collar jobs, and have children? According to Mike Bartlett’s new play Love, Love, Love, not much: Those people remain selfish and aloof for the next 40 years, with no sign of changing.
The premise and structure of Love, Love, Love is intriguing: In three acts, with an intermission between each, we leapfrog across the decades, checking in with self-indulgent Kenneth (The Hobbit’s Richard Armitage) and narcissistic Sandra (The Office’s Amy Ryan) in at their first encounter in 1967, then again in the ‘80s and ‘00s. It starts off funny: As 19-year-olds, Kenneth and Sandra’s wide-eyed, “times they are a-changin’” mindsets are expected, and when Sandra leaves Kenneth’s brother Henry (Alex Hurt) to be with Kenneth, it’s cruel, but understandable. The two Oxford students do seem much better suited than seeing Sandra paired with the practical, stiff Henry. Armitage and Ryan even make their energetic egotists pretty likable (though it requires a bit too much imagination on the audience’s part to pretend two actors in their mid-to-late-40s pass for 19).
As the years roll on, problems inevitably arise. Kenneth and Sandra are apparently shocked to find themselves living in luxurious ‘80s suburbia (depicted as a gorgeous pastel living room by scenic designer Derek McLane) with two neglected teenagers, 16-year-old Rose (Zoe Kazan), a flat stereotype who has to shriek 90 percent of her lines in attempt to reach her unhearing parents, and 14-year-old Jamie (Ben Rosenfield). In the third act, it’s the ‘00s, both children are profoundly screwed up in their own ways, and their parents still fail to see the ways they’ve hurt everyone around them.
Love, Love, Love might have redeemed itself if it contained a modicum of the love its title boasts, or if any of these characters had even the slightest bit of an arc, but — spoiler alert? — they don’t. Frankly, it’s baffling that such an uninspired play sprung from the same mind that conceived of a brilliant, probing thought experiment like King Charles III, seen on Broadway last season. By the end of Love’s two hours, it feels almost as if the play’s four-decade span happened in real-time. C-