Love is in the air at the Dorothy Streslin Theatre – 312 West 36th Street. Only most of the characters in this rehashing of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, hate love. Love makes us stupid. It just causes too many problems. It’s humiliating. It’s painful. Methinks they protest too much. If the truth be known, the entire point of I HATE LOVE is that love is certainly worth all the bother.
In this very loosely directed production written by Jon Crefeld and Kyle Baxter, Beatrice and Benedick become Tom Lawrence (DR Mann Hanson looking like a fey Clark Kent) and Commander Gerald Bennett (a fine Blaine Pennington). Will they be outed? Will they be accepted? Will they admit their love for one another? Will they ever stop fighting?
Kira Lawrence, Tom’s cousin (a bitchy Sarah Barry) is in love with Lieutenant Cruz Galvan (Andrew Stephen Johnson) and indeed they become engaged and plan a speedy wedding as the rest of Cruz’s Naval squadron have limited time before they return to duty. Boris Sagitov (Anthony Gargano) has the hots for Margaret Frank (Danielle Beckmann) and vice-versa. There are others in the cast to help complicate the complicated plot. Too many actors (13) for the cramped space at the Dorothy Streslin. Director, Mark Duncan faces many obstacles in the staging and rarely overcomes them.
There are some fun moments (a scene between the gay Bennett and the straight Cruz is well written and performed) but too much is happening in the otherwise uninspired script. It all goes awry when Deputy Verges (Austin Elmore), Father Frank (Roi King) and Sheriff Boone Doggleberry (Duncan Pflaster) arrive on the scene in their over-the-top portrayals with some pseudo Shakespearean speak.
Everyone seems to accept the fact that Tom and Bennett are gay and belong together. They just have to get Tom and Bennett to admit their love for each other. Will they? Is the Pope Catholic? There are Southern drawls, text messaging between characters (a first for me) and a solicitous ad on a lap top that attempts to derail Kira and Cruz’s nuptials placed there by Lieutenant Sean Peterson (Dan Belmont – who is one of the best of the bunch here). And, of course, a happy ending which evoked a collective aaah from the audience. Presented by The Collective Objective.