Romantic Poetry opens with a lovely ode to the beauty of poetry sung by a newly-married couple and their freshly-coupled younger counterparts. From this first impression, I thought I’d be in for a gushy romance but this assumption was quickly dispelled as the newlyweds Connie and Fred proceeded to demand a divorce.
Silliness quickly ensued. First, the hotel’s ‘honeymoon manager’ falls in love with the caterer who’s been stiffed by the bride’s father: they sing a fun duet while the quarrelling couple looks on in annoyance. Then, we find out that the recent wedding wasn’t exactly legal since the wife’s first two divorces never actually happened thanks to a morally-questionable lawyer who, did I mention, was her second husband.
At the end of the first act, I thought that Romantic Poetry had all the makings of a great musical comedy: catchy songs with complex harmonies, several laugh-out-loud moments, and the right amount of campy choreography. The music was beautifully sung by the cast who were accompanied by a small but very skillful band. I was impressed. How I wish the show had continued on that path instead of turning into a bizarre commentary on the importance of art.
The second act contains a lot of soliloquy songs, ballads, and generally slow numbers which contrast poorly with the earlier snappy pace. Now the caterer owns a deli and has broken up with his girlfriend who quit her job to be a painter. Similarly, Connie (who decided to marry Fred after all, thanks to his romantic poetry) is on her third divorce after deciding money is more important than passion. Of course the lovelorn rejects plead their case and try to convince their former partners that life isn’t worth living without romance and art.
Though I personally agree with this statement, I still didn’t like the serious tone the play took on. That said, despite my issues with the content of the show, I had a good time. Zach Counsil’s turn as lawyer-turned-prisoner-turned-communist was delightfully funny and a true joy to watch. I loathed tearing my eyes away from Kate Smith, the charming but more-than-slightly crazy divorcee/wife. Even when she wasn’t the center of attention, her expressions were priceless and she added a lot of punch to every scene she was in. Romantic Poetry is blessed with a strong ensemble cast: hilarious actors who can also sing and make us believe in the ridiculous. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the perfect Valentine’s gift?
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to know what you think. Did you prefer the first or second act? What was your favorite number? How did this show stack up to your own experiences in relationships? Are all women really tacos? Join the discussion and tell me what you think in the comments below.
Romantic Poetry is presented by Black Sheep Theater. It runs now through February 20th at The Gladstone. Visit their show page for show times and to buy tickets.