"Love Story" is a stunningly unrelatable caricature of a relationship that relies on a beautiful score and cheesy self-referential dialogue to capture how lacking in magic a staged love story can be. Calling your play "Love Story" makes it pretty clear to the audience what you are setting out to do. I went in to this show expecting what you could imagine a Erich Segal book set to music would be. The reality was much worse.
"Love Story" shows the quick progression of two college students falling in love despite coming from different backgrounds and having widely opposing views and goals. How do they explain this almost instant love affair? By plopping it in the dialogue without any hints of why either would feel this way. But this was not so problematic. I can swallow this with a simple ’love is blind’ type of reasoning.
What was more difficult to accept was the continued irrational behavior of these two supposed starstruck lovers. Giving up on this dream, breaking off from that family. "Love Story" quickly became a not so sweet story of two co-dependent lovers without much of a relationship to anyone else in their lives.
Very few loves stories can survive without a certain level of insanity and a healthy portion of cliches. But what all love stories need in order to be relatable is a feeling that the underlying reason for all of this are deep, uncontrollable feelings.
Rather than building that level of emotion, "Love Story" used tired tropes exclusively for its plot and dialogue: Opposites attract; fire builds passion; becoming a completely different person for someone you met less than a week ago. It was all there in this play, but shouldn’t there be a substance to go with it?
Perhaps all of this crazy behavior could have been used as a stark contrast to some display of real emotion or motivations. However, this was similarly lacking. With very little chemistry, the leads were never even able to capture any of my emotions.
Will Reynolds’ character, Oliver Barrett IV, maintained a constant bratty story of being handed everything in life but the love he so craved from his parents, which is one trope I could not be more sick of or sympathetic for.
Meanwhile, Alexandra Silber handled the character of Jenny Cavilleri with as little warmth as possible, which sort of ruined the emotional fireworks intended for her early leukemia-related death.
It is true that "Love Story" was not without its share of sweet moments, and it commanded what was truly a beautiful score. Additionally, the Walnut Street Theatre’s production value was reliably impressive. But there is only so much that the background pieces of a show can save the main attraction, and nothing could have saved this one. After a disappointing night, I will warn that lovers of musicals may want to skip "Love Story."
"Love Story: The Musical" runs through October 21 at the Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. For info or tickets, call 215-574-3550 or visit http://www.walnutstreettheatre.org