Charlie is an amiable, 31-year-old struggling actor, writer and motivational speaker, who chickens out while calling a woman from a Village Voice personal ad. He soon becomes romantically involved with Carol, a successful lawyer, and later the temperamental Susan, a controlling singer. During these complications, we meet an assortment of colorful best friends, sidekicks, and view a satirically enacted commercial casting session.
Most crucial is “Charlie’s Head,” which is the theatrical device of his subconscious being represented by another actor. This alter ego is always present, commenting on the action with the honesty and insight that Charlie is often unable to articulate.
The writing and direction strives for a hyper television situation comedy tone reminiscent of Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex and The City, though rarely exhibiting any of the periodic depth these classic programs exhibited. This work succeeds at expressing an exaggerated sensibility that some may find captivating, and that others may be periodically detached from.
Author Jason S. Grossman’s script is smooth, well constructed, and professionally comic. If it were presented on television or as a film, it would most likely have more impact than it has here. As a one hour and forty minute stage play without intermission, it lacks dramatic force to make it totally fulfilling.
The opening and moving concluding scenes are quite effective, with a good deal of the middle less than compelling. There, the events are so often broadly conceived that they betray reality, making a good deal of it amusing but emotionally uninvolving.
Director Rachel Klein’s staging technically serves the material well without challenging it. The pacing is fast and the artful placement of the actors throughout the show yields very fine stage images. Her costumes are as suitably colorful, conveying the outlandishness of some of the characters. The performances by the cast are uniformly engaging and true to the characters, but are often too largely amped up.
Michael Perrie, Jr. as “Charlie’s Head,” is magnetic. Tall, lean, with quirky, expressive features, and physically fluid, he recalls the charismatic goofiness of the young Tom Hanks. His commanding presence anchors the show. In this role divorced from reality, he seizes the opportunity to run rampant, but always with believability. His detailed impersonation of a pet cat is a hilarious highlight.
Zal Owen is charmingly frantic as Charlie. He sustains the right amount of balance between silliness and seriousness.
Carlotta Brentan is wonderfully alluring as Susan, the manipulative and egomaniacal singer. Amy-Helene Carlson winningly portrays the career girl lawyer Carol.
J. Andrew Young, Mary Orzano, Sarah Elizabeth Grace, and Chris Chirdon, greatly contribute to the ensemble with their energetically comic performances.
The black walls and floor of the stage are decorated with neon colored strips arranged in geometric patterns, and the neon painted simple wood furniture, are the inspired work of set designer Brian Dudkiewicz. These simple adornments create a very abstract visual environment that complements the frenetic events. This is all very well accompanied by Jonathan Hartley’s lighting design.
Grossman began writing Love Me in the 1990’s, and it was first produced in 2010. This fitfully diverting incarnation strategically relies on brashness, and may leave some desiring more subtlety.
Love Me (through May 16, 2015)
Funny … Sheesh Productions
The 4th Street Theatre, 83 East 4th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 1-800-838-3006 or visit http://www.funnysheesh.tripod.com
Running time: one hour and forty minutes with no intermission