Perhaps the issue with Love/Sick is that it all feels a bit soulless. The duologues are played so naturalistically, and with so few risky choices, that Love/Sick very quickly begins to feel like a selection of scenes from an NT Connections anthology, with a last-minute attempt at threading everything together in its penultimate scene. Much of this is down to the script. Love/Sick, an “eclectic collection of darkly comic short plays about romance” by Tony-nominated John Cariani, follows the trajectory of a relationship through an array of pairings - from impulsive making out in Target to early-days jitters to marriage to cheating to divorce. On paper, it should be a safe bet, and therein lies the problem. Very little actually happens.
To their credit, Hyacinth Theatre make an admirable stab at what is a slightly dull script. The quality of performances are universally excellent and feel fundamentally human, even in the play’s headiest moments of absurdism. The decision to include some LGBTQ+ pairings in the script was a nice nod to more a more equitable representation, though I only wish they hadn’t been confined to scenes exploring the very early stages of relationships. And the cast evidently have versatility in spades, performing a relatively broad array of roles with ease.
A reliance on fictitious mental health issues (‘obsessive impulsive disorder’, for one) to bring in the quirk-factor, and little in the way of dramaturgical creativity, Hyacinth theatre are working with poor base material. But, equally, the directorial and stylistic choices didn’t provide the lift the play needs: Love/Sick was played against a generic studio setup, interspersed with generic blackouts and played with General American accents. In lieu of going all-in on the absurdism, I wanted more of a narrative arc. I wanted to care about the characters - but with each confined to one scene, presented in isolation, this was difficult. The cast and production team are talented, that much is clear, but the whole play tends toward blandness.
Love/Sick bills itself as “one of the strangest, darkest and funniest plays about love you’re likely to see at the Fringe, or anywhere else”. Unfortunately, though Love/Sick makes for a well-performed selection of duologues, it lacks both dramaturgical coherence and theatrical creativity: it feels like a play which took the path of least resistance, and therein doesn’t quite live up to its own promises.