Let’s get this out of the way: “Living on Love” might not be the best sounding title. Perhaps you might be expecting the average generic comedy—maybe a “Barefoot in the Park” wanna-be.
But this show, in its Southern premiere at Stage Door, is much funnier than that. With one foot in the world of farce, another in the world of fine music, and several more assorted feet in the world of plain old funny stuff, Joe DiPetro’s play is a delight. Artistic Director Robert Egizio proves once again he knows his way around the fine-tuning of audience laughter.
Think 1957. A maestro, already a legend in his own mind, has a book contract for his memoir (“Call Me Maestro,” of course). But seven writers have given up the ghost in attempting to jump-start it with him. Enter editor Iris. Maestro Vito shows more than a literary interest. His jealous wife, the Diva Raquel from the world of opera, hires young Robert for her own memoir (“Call Me Diva.”). Cue the hijinks.
Casting makes the comedy, and this one hits more high notes than even the Diva. All six players are flawless. Michael Strauss is a madcap Italian Vito, refusing to rely on the easy laugh of a continental accent. He handles not only the comedy but the rare moments of tenderness. Denise Whelan returns to Stage Door in the role of Raquel, the aging diva. She’s wonderful, whether bursting into melody at odd moments or worrying about her fate as a mezzo. Nobody hits a false note—comically or musically.
Lauren Boyd Lane is a face to watch. As editor Iris, she has the kind of comic chops that can’t be taught. She has a wonderful presence. Roger Payano (Robert) is the nervous young writer who is over the moon with the diva and simply over the maestro. Often the straight man (but not always) he helps bring the very best out of his cast-mates. And, don’t forget the servants, George Deavours and Stuart Schleuse. They work perfectly in tandem, even more so than it first appears.
The best farces are made to look easy by an accomplished cast; in reality, nothing in theater is harder to pull off. Under Egizio’s direction, this production may well be the bright light in an already strong season. Supporting this superb cast is the stellar technical crew, which includes Chuck Welcome (Set Design/Scenic Artist), J.D. Williams (Lighting Design), Kathy Ellsworth (Properties Design), Jim Alford (Costume Design), Rial Ellsworth (Sound Design), George Deavours (Wig Design), and A.J. Stevenson (Stage Manager).
“Living on Love” continues through June 10 with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. There are two additional Thursday performances on May 31 and June 7 at 8 p.m. You’ll want to grab your tickets while you can, because this one is going to be a word-of-mouth sensation around Dunwoody.
Stage Door Players is located in the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center, 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody and on the web at stagedoorplayers.net. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 770-396.1727.