A Love Affair is a semi-autobiographical account of a 38-year
marriage written by Jerry Mayer, whose bread and butter was made in 1970s episodic
sit-com television series like The Facts of Life (1979), Tabitha (1976) and All
in the Family (1971). As you might expect, given this background, the play is
written for laughs, and is told episodically as the matured husband/wife duo
Jimmy and Alice Diamond relive significant moments of their shared history in
the house they now need to sell to an enterprising member of the new generation
of LA writers, thanks to a recent financial downturn.
Love and finances are often at odds in many relationships, responsible
for tension, tantrums, and tear-ups, and this play explores that dichotomised
disharmony in scenes between a frugal wife and a prodigal husband, who are scantly
drawn in the same way as many sit-com characters, yet so well-portrayed by the
actors that a disjointed story is compellingly conveyed such that we really
care for the people whose lives we get the chance to glimpse.
The caricatures: Jimmy the consummately concupiscent breadwinner,
and Alice the prudent family and finance planner, become characters whom we can
recognise and with whom we can empathise, despite their unrelenting set-up,
punchline modus operandi, thanks to heartfelt acting and the praiseworthy directorial
decision from Lesley Reed to play to their humanity, and not just ham it up for
the laughs. There are laughs, too, a good many of them, but they land so well
because the actors animate real people who we care about, as opposed to just
giving us what is written on the page.
The device of the play involves two generations of Diamonds,
but, they’re the same Diamonds, just one couple are the ‘older’ Jimmy/Alice and
the other the ‘younger.’ The older Diamonds watch their younger counterparts,
commenting and advising them through their fights and finances, until the
second act, where the tables are turned, and the younger couple become the scrutinising
audience for their future selves.
Elder Jimmy is played by Lindsay Dunn, whose sensitivity
shines and mesmerises, and whose singing voice may elicit a tear in the midst
of a laugh-a-minute situational comedy of a play.
Jimmy Junior (I guess we can call him?) is played by Nick
Endenburg, who has a natural vulnerability and understated charm that endear
him to us quickly, allowing his OTT libido to come across as waggish rather
Lindy LeCornu plays the elder Alice with both the puissance
and delicacy needed to make her character more than a wet blanket. So effective
was her characterisation that she was responsible for moments to profound
poignancy, particularly in the latter part of the play, despite the limited
nature of the character as written.
Alice the younger was played by Shanna Ransley, with
outstanding charisma. Ransley imbues Alice Jr. with vibrance, energy, and
chutzpah, so that she truly enlivens and enriches the show whenever on stage.
Her singing voice is angelic, and moving, and she deftly managed to jerk a tear
as well as a laugh from the good-sized audience on opening night.
Leanne Robinson played more than a handful of female
characters with significant impact upon Jimmy and Alice at various times
throughout their 38-year marriage. Key to her successful performance(s) was the
strong differentiation between each of the characters she played, largely due
to some acute accent work.
Especially effective in this Galleon production was the lighting
design from James Allenby. There are many scene changes and transitions between
locations in the play made seamless largely by the clever and intuitive use of lighting.
The costumier also had to be on their toes to deal with all
the changes, and in this case, exceeded expectations, with characters being period
appropriate and often prepossessingly accoutred.
The set design was naturally simple, representing the
interior of a single LA house over a near four-decade span. The walls were
bare, and non-descript, so as to leave room for adornment in the change to the
second act, better reflecting of the change of times. An effective device for
avoiding anachronism as the story leapt from decade to decade. I was worried
that the older Jimmy/Alice may have become stuck in the back corner where they began
the story, clearing the attic, but, fortunately, they soon move into the
bedroom alongside their younger selves and in a better position to engage us in
A Love Affair is written like a sit-com but produced by
Galleon, directed by Lesley Reed, and performed by the actors so well that it
speaks to us in the audience and earns the name ‘play.’