Science has brought us many wonderful things, not least of which is an impenetrable set of technical metaphors we can use to describe the mystery of human love. Who (other than a killjoy feminist) doesn’t like to hear a Neo-Darwinist tell you with a straight face that men are attracted to a woman’s red lipstick because it’s an atavistic memory of her nether lips? Really?
Science recently taught me there is a Latin name for the experience of pleasant surprise you get upon seeing a creative, original work of art for the first time: “positive prediction error.” You see, a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens (referred to colloquially as “the seat of pleasant surprises”), likes to recognize patterns. When a pattern is revealed to it that it didn’t anticipate — but that makes beautiful sense — the nucleus accumbens fires off like a nuclear missile.
Of course, for the nucleus accumbens to get its nut, you have to have 1) a pattern, and 2) an innovation that makes beautiful sense. The Chemistry of Love, by Jill Campbell, has at least one of the two, and that ain’t bad.
The play opens on four characters: two men and two women, three old and one young, two artists, one art world creeper, and one nebbish with a lot of artistic potential. Long story short, The lady artist (played by Kim Merrill) is in a “relationship” with the guy artist (Matt B Luceno), who is ten years younger and one thousand times cooler than her. The older guy (Dennis Parlato) has been in the scene so long he was in the Pleistocene, and the nebbishy friend of the lady artist (Jenne Vath) is Edith Bunker on Viagra. Everyone is trying — metaphorically and literally — to screw everyone else, and hilarity ensues.
Chemistry of Love is a latter day, early Woody Allen-esque romp. By that I mean it features four broadly drawn stereotypes of middle- to highbrow Manhattanites engaged in two hours of ludicrous face-saving fun. Similar works include Friends, Seinfeld, and New Girl. If you haven’t already figured out who gets the girl in the end, check it out. Though you may need to leave your nucleus accumbens at home.
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