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After the restrictions of history (JESSE JAMES) and adaptation (DRACULA), Joe was eager to write something from an original idea. He wanted to explore some of the vagaries of the modern dating/romance scene, and an imperfect but understandable shorthand for his script became, “a male SEX AND THE CITY.”

Joe developed four male characters heading towards middle age, but still looking for love (or some short-term equivalent). He then bounced them off various females and various situations as they experienced love, lust, marriage and divorce. He set the main action in a bar which was the guys’ favorite hang-out, and devised other situations/spaces for the characters to interact.

Again, the Company would perform at Technisonic Studios. With David and Joe in the cast, they chose to co-direct (along with Mike Sneden of the Arbor Group), and cast a great group of performers.

The show garnered lots of laughs, but also tried to point out sometimes poignant truths about the ways men and women deceive each other and themselves.

A flawed but promising LOVE MATCH
By Sally Cragin
Riverfront Times

In Joe Hanrahan’s new LOVE MATCH, modern urban guys Brian, Scott, Rick and Eddie would do anything to dodge commitment and intimacy. This is a bit surprising, because they’re slouching toward middle age, a little late in the day to be so naïve and cynical about romance. They’re the centerpiece of this “comedy/tragedy,” which has some splendid theatrical moments and frequent jolts of emotional insight. There’s even Mametian eloquence, such as Rick’s monologue about how the word “share” has become irretrievably corrupted into “she wants to dump all over you,” a winning peroration of overwrought rage. Yet where LOVE MATCH goes astray is when commentary suffocates storytelling, reducing a promising premise to stereotypical cliche and gender-slagging.

Brian and Eddie (Hanrahan and David Wassilak, who share directorial credit with Mike Sneden) are sensitive guys; Scott and Rick (Steve Springmeyer and Larry Dell) are slef-proclaimed “scumbag dickheads” who embody rage and sleaze, respectively. Brian and Eddie’s occupations (tyro software designer and actor/director enable them to meet their inamoratae, Sarah and Jennifer (DeDe Splaingard and Rachel Jackson), an Internet entrepreneur and actress. We get to see Brian and Sarah’s relationship begin, and here’s plenty of bitter epilogue, but virtually nothing abut what ensues. Similarly, Eddie, a thoughtful fellow shoe obsessions include astronomy and plate tectonics, casts mainstream actress Jennifer in THE CHERRY ORCHARD. Yet their interaction reduces him to her babbling style of discourse, saying “Wow!” and “Cool!” We never get a sense of why thee fellows are smitten and helpless, which is a flaw in the script more than the fault of the actors, who are, for the most part, quite fine.

Oddly enough, stale come-ons work just fine for the scumbag dickheads. Scott chases after lawyer Ginger (Tina Farmer) but scores with legal secretary Leslie (Karen Klaus), who’s cartoonish about her post-divorce trauma. For all his griping about sharing, he blathers abut work, and then, somewhat predicatably, gets dumped. Much of LOVE MATCH takes place in a bar, where Wanda and Gary (Sara Rutherford and Eric Baldwin) Work. Wanda says nary a word to the other cast, yet sets up successive scenes with flat, runic commentary. Alas, the female roles range from bland to degrading, making for a lopsided presentation.

The staging is also a mystery. LOVE MATCH is presented in a voluminous TV studio, yet the audience is crammed into long rows. Most scenes are presented at extreme downstage right or left, which means, depending on your seat, you’re staring straight up or across to see the actors, who play on the same level. Even so, one presumes Hanrahan is paying attention to what’s working – and not – onstage. If his sharp and convincing THE BALLAD OF JESSE JAMES is anything to go by, he’ll continue revising this piece – and aim for depth rather than depth charges.

By Judy Newmark
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

LOVE MATCH, the new play by Joe Hanrahan debuting at Midnight Productions, comes with an intriguing premise – men care a lot about women, even when they don’t care to know much about them – and a lot of clever lines.

It also comes with a problem. Its stories about four friends and their mismanaged love lives never coalesce into one whole play. The vignettes that make up LOVE MATCH interrupt each other rather than complement each other in an emotionally unified work.

The program list three directors – Hanrahan, David Wassilak and Mike Sneden. Chances are, that’s two too many. LOVE MATCH often feels a half-beat off, and that problem may not be in the script. It’s hard to maintain rhythm, extra-had without one director to regulate it.

Hanrahan, Wassilak, Larry Dell and Steve Springmeyer play the friends. They don’t seem to be friends for any reason except they go to the same bar. And all of them are obsessed with women.

An insecure computer genius (Hanrahan) agonizes helplessly while his marriage to an entrepreneur falls apart. A director (Wassilak) can’t get his relationship with an actress (Rachel Jackson) past the collegial stage. A car salesman (Larry Dell) regards women as receptacles, a description he offers with stunning vivacity in one of the play’s many very vulgar, very funny lines. A man who changes jobs a lot (Steve Springmeyer) bitterly blames women for everything that’s wrong with his life, which is just about everything.

They fumble through encounters with women they know well and women they’ve just met, notably an exhausted lawyer (Tina Farmer) and her unbalanced secretary (Karen Klaus).

Nobody seems to go know how to get out of this mess. The salesman observes that relationships always end badly. Either you split up, or one of you dies. The men feel put down; they put themselves down. But they don’t realize that the women feel just as lonely as they do.

Hanrahan builds that in nicely, though, through several women-to-women conversations. Although his play in modern in its fluid construction, he gives the audience its old-fashioned “god” status – we know more about what’s going on than the characters do. This enables us to realize that although things may be tough, they aren’t hopeless.

Rounding out the cast are two bartenders (Eric Baldwin and Sara Rutherford). As usual, they are there mainly to deliver the line that prompts the quick come-back or emotional revelation. Rutherford’s character also address the audience, voicing the hope of l ove all the characters feel. Hat helps tie things together. But steadier rhythms might achieve the same end with less artifice.

LOVE MATCH has an odd venue, a commercial sound stage. It works well, with a sleek set that’s mostly black, except for a row of jewel-toned bottles over the bar (the elixir of love?) Doug Hastings gets the credit for lighting and the set.

By Daniel Higgins
KDHX Radio

The sustained use of metaphors from the worlds of computer technology and astrophysics may seem an unlikely hook upon which to hang a play exploring male-female relationships and why they so often don’t work. But in local playwright Joe Hanrahan’s comedy/tragedy LOVE MATCH, the ideas work well, bringing some thoughtful perspective to this well-trodden ground. Though not stunning in its impact, the play succeeds on the whole, the best aspects of it overcoming certain flaws to make for an entertaining and worthwhile ninety minutes of theater.

Much of the content is familiar from other treatments of the same themes: most men are pigs, women want things few men are able or willing to give, and so on. But the text gives more dimension to its characters, or gives it more convincingly, than is sometimes the case. Even the most apparently Neanderthal of the men has a moment of weakness in which he admits to wishing he could actually like a woman. I’m not sure I’d say that any of the characters really grows – I don’t think that’s the intention – but some of them do experience at least fleeting revelations about truths greater than those that drive their normally self-serving approach to life. And I mustn’t neglect to mention Mr. Hanrahan’s witty dialogue: there is no lack of unhappiness in this text, but there are a a lot of laughs along the way, some broad, some barbed, some subtle, some quite dark. At the very least, this is very entertaining stuff. At its best moments, it says things about human nature that are both true and original, to me at least.

One thing that doesn’t work for me about this play is the dozen or so brief poetic interludes, delivered under a simulated moonlight effect by Sara Rutherford in the role of Wanda, the barmaid. It’s hard to say whether the poetry itself is ineffectual or if it was undermined by an overmannered and artificial reading, but it’s probably a bit of each; I think I might appreciate just reading the text of those sections more than I enjoyed them in performance. The quality of the acting in this piece is pretty uneven. The production as a whole could probably benefit from a slightly more brisk tempo and smoother transitions between vignettes, and stage energy, evern for a philosophical work such as this is, could have been slightly higher. But I would not wish my comments about a few shortcomings to deprive this show of the audience it deserves. As I mentioned earlier, the production as a whole overcomes these failings, and there are some very niche touches along the way, from Eric Baldwin and Tina Farmer each making memorable moments out of unglamorous roles, to Larry Dell’s portrayal lof a misogynistic car salesman, to Rachel Jackson’s subtle discovery in the text of TWELFTH NIGHT, ot the counterpoint provided by the sound design. There is a lot more to like than to quibble with abut this show.


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Revised: October, 2007
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