Why do birds sing so gay? Because they’re fools. Besides, what else are you going to do? If the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven, then why not choose happiness over misery? Beane has been in a minimalist hell of his own creation his whole life. He owns one cup, one spoon, one jacket, one hoody, and an overcoat. He lives in a one room apartment with one lamp (bare bulb), one table, and one toilet. He works in a toll booth all day and has hallucinations induced by solitary confinement at night. He also has one sister, Joan, and one brother-in-law, Harry, who are cynical and world-weary, which is to say they don’t have much imagination, curiosity, or joie de vivre. They are his clueless caretakers, the sort who invite him over for dinner then give him a psychology test from the back of a magazine to show they care.
One night when Beane returns to his cell Molly is waiting for him. Molly is beautiful, if dirty. She is clever — and morose. She is his other half, his soul mate, the girl who will make his heart sing. And Beane does sing. His tortured song of desperation, the bleak ravings of a hooting, midnight owl, is turned to the wildly exuberant lark’s song at break of day. Before he could only see the corruption of death, rot in a pile of leaves, murdered bird in every bite of his turkey sandwich. Post-Molly he only sees new beginnings, fertilizer for roses, and the exquisite joy of thousand island dressing on thinly sliced rye bread.
Molly is perfect. Not only does she lift Beane out of his lifelong funk, she lifts Joan and and Harry up too. She matches Beane metaphor for metaphor in his madness, neutralizing his crazy and rendering him passable for the world. But anything that seems too good to be true probably is, and so it is with Molly. She isn’t real. When Joan finds out that Molly is only a figment of Beane’s imagination, she confronts him, and he, reluctantly, confronts Molly. Being the stand-up thief that she is, she cops to the charge, and Beane, chastened by her unreality, decides to reform. He thanks Molly for all she’s done for him, puts on his one coat, and heads out into the real world.
John Kolvenbach’s 2006 play is a cute, timeless, indie theater classic — boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy realizes girl was always just an imaginary friend — and the Seeing Place Theater’s production of it at the ATA Sargent Theater is as close to perfect as Love Song will get. Marnie Klar’s (Joan) transformation from hard-bitten and shrill to sensuous and compassionate compliments Jason Wilson’s (Harry) evolution from obtuse dude to sensitive guy. Erin Cronican is feisty and fun as Beane’s imaginary friend Molly. And Brandon Walker’s Beane is equally depressing and horrible in the first act as he is matured and right on in the second act. Love Song is the kind of show The Seeing Place does very well, and it is their commitment to affordable, entertaining, live theater that keeps audiences coming back for more.
ATA Sargent Theater
Through December 9th