‘Aspects of Love’ Review: Mostly Fantastic

Great music meets stiff chemistry in a new play at No Exit Cafe.

photograph: adam veness

Matthew Keffer and Kelli Harrington in Aspects of Love.

As the title implies, Aspects of Love is all about chemistry. Make that chemistry and orchestrations/vocals, thanks to the gorgeous score by Andrew Lloyd Webber. This is, arguably, one of Webber’s best scores—low on the bombast-o-meter and high in richly moving love songs. What it lacks in spectacle (no crashing chandeliers/dancing cats here), it makes up for in sheer sonic gorgeousness as it spins a web of multi-generational love (and lust). The story lines weave between men and women, women and women, and parents and children.

Directed by the tireless Fred Anzevino, the Theo Ubique staging gets it half right. Aspects of Love sounds, mostly, fantastic. As for that all important chemistry, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Here’s what works about the show: First off, Kelli Harrington. As Rose Vivert, she’s at the amorous epicenter of the musical soap opera (book by Webber based on the novel by David Garnett), and she’s magnificent. Soaring through “Anything But Lonely,” she delivers an anthem that is both bittersweet and celebratory, a plaintive, swoon-worthy song tinged with rue and hope. In a regrettably smaller role is Colette Todd as Guiletta, the vivacious bisexual lover of both Rose and Rose’s husband, George. If Todd’s flame-throwing take on “Hand Me the Wine and the Dice” doesn’t leave you ready to chuck your bourgeoisie conventions and hop the first flight to Rio, then you just aren’t paying attention. Finally, there’s Rose’s daughter Jenny (Rochelle Therrien), whose sweetly seductive “Mermaid Song” balances deftly and delicately on the high-wire between innocent and siren.

Backed by the surprisingly lush orchestrations of musical director Jeremy Ramey’s four-piece combo (surprising in its lushness because it is only a four-piece combo), the women capture, in song, the emotional spectrum from heartbreak to joy. If you’ve ever been in or out of love, their delivery will resonate through the entire range of emotions that accompany those often overwhelming states. The men, sorry to say, don’t fare so effectively.

There’s not a hint of a spark between Rose and her primary paramours, Alex (Matthew Keffer) and Alex’s uncle, George (Sean Thomas). We first meet Alex as a 17-year-old obsessively enthralled with struggling (and significantly older) actress Rose. As she impulsively agrees to go away with him, the audience may well be left rolling its collective eyeballs. There’s just no heat emanating from the stage as Rose embarks on this impetuous fling. The net result is puzzling—a hook-up between these two seems about as likely as a gay-friendly Pope.

Part of the problem is that Keffer seems miscast. He simply reads too young, not so much physically as emotionally. What should be heedlessly, desperately, all-encompassing passion comes across as Tiger Beat-variety puppy love. There’s no substance backing the boyishness, a problem that is compounded as Alex ages (Aspects of Love jumps from 1947 through the early 1960s).

Meanwhile, there’s the equally problematic George. Thomas has the pipes but not the heat to be believable as Rose’s husband (and Guiletta’s lover). He’s stuffy without spirit—his interest in Rose seems stagey and stiff.

Critical though those flaws may be, Aspects of Love remains thrilling musically. “Seeing is Believing” will have even the most jaded cynic believing in the power of love, as will the ecstasy-fueled “Love Changes Everything.” If only the acting achieved the levels of the vocals. Then we’d have a wonderful production.

Aspects of Love plays with the Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre at the No Exit Cafe through April 21. Tickets start at $30.

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