The first thing that made me happy about attending the Citadel Theatre production of Tom Wood’s new comedy Make Mine Love – no wait, the second one, after a visit with my season-ticket companion and a glass of red wine in the lobby – was recognising names in the program. There were ten actors on stage, and I had seen all of them in other shows. As well, there were many familiar names credited with performing or working on the video bits, including Patrick Lundeen and Lianna Makuch, Braydon Dowler-Coltman and Andrea Rankin.
And after that? Well, there was Rebecca Northan. As far as I’m concerned, Rebecca Northan makes this show. The plot is fun, the other characters are amusing (especially those played by Mark Meer, Jana O’Connor, and Julien Arnold), the special effects are … I don’t know if they are simple or complicated, but there were several things that are seen in old-time movies but never or rarely seen on stage, except for here. For example, there was a scene set on a train … and someone clinging to the side of the train and slipping backwards, one window at a time. With the help of some video clips, there was a car chase scene with gunfire and the car spinning around. The costumes, sets, and accents built the environments of New York City and Hollywood in 1938. And the great love story of two movie stars, (John Ullyatt and Rebecca Northan) has some not quite predictable details, most of which were improvements. But Rebecca Northan was great, and great fun.
Now I will note a few of those details, so don’t read further if you’d like to be surprised. (I do – which is why I try to go to previews).
It is refreshing indeed to have the powerful demanding leading-lady turn out to be actually competent, not just in acting but in other skills like fixing cars.
The storyline about how she only gets to be friends with him because she thinks he is gay … it was a little weird how the writer had to find expressions for that which sounded period, but also sounded cute and not offensive to modern ears. I did not entirely buy how quickly she forgave him for the layers of deception, but, hey, whatever.
I liked the subplot about the dancer (Alex McCooeye, who was in Spamalot) teaching the starlet (Lisa Norton, who was in Penelopiad) how to tell a story in her singing. It was believable and satisfying.
And I liked the tiny romantic bit with a same sex couple (Sarah Machin Gale and Jana O’Connor) which was not played for laughs. After spending most of my vacation budget on Broadway shows, I noticed that there seemed to be a lot more queer and genderqueer men in the shows I was watching, than there were women of non-standard sexuality or gender expression. So it was nice to come home and see two women together on stage at the Citadel.
Make Mine Love continues until June 1st at the Shoctor Theatre (the big auditorium at the Citadel). It’s not great theatre but it’s good fun, and especially enjoyable if, like me, you like watching Rebecca Northan.