The psychologists might call Beane mildly autistic. A few could even get away with saying he's a danger to himself. He has no friends, probably because he's driven them off with his oddball obsessions; he eats out of a cup and feeds himself with his only spoon (forks have lied to him before, and, boy, no way is he falling for that again). His dingy apartment sports a temperamental light bulb, its spontaneous flicker a metaphor for his befuddlement over a world he can't understand.
He needs either to concoct a love interest or to let a love interest concoct him—and he does both in Love Song, the current entry at Cygnet Theatre's Rolando venue. A rude first encounter with his new friend sets the tone for this very good story about the daunting power of romantic involvement and the awakenings it brings. Love, playwright John Kolvenbach says, is no respecter of persons—not only can the best and least of us tap its redemptive might, it brazenly insists we do so. It's the only constant in a world fraught with inconstancy, and Beane's sister Joan better get used to that idea.
In fact, Joan (Jessa Watson) might be every bit as unbalanced as Beane amid her neurotic, harpy indignation toward the world around her. She doesn't know what to make of her brother's sudden fascination with everything and anything; his new face leads her to introspection about her marriage to the submissive Harry (Daren Scott).
Kolvenbach wrote these roles to reflect the mainstream behaviors that contrast with Beane's, and director Sean Murray hasn't missed much in their portrayal. Watch the scenes in which Harry and Joan call in sick—they're a letter-perfect illustration of the love that runs deep under this unlikely, supposedly stale household.
Meanwhile, Molly (Jessica John)—or at least the idea of Molly—yanks Beane (Francis Gercke) into the real world in spite of himself. It turns out she's a pretty good burglar, breaking into Beane's flat and robbing him of more than his heart. The body language here is OK, with Molly's two-fistedness working well against Beane's rubber legs. I'm wondering, though, if the recalcitrant Beane could conceive of someone as voluptuous as Molly—after all, he's probably had one and a half dates in his life, and John's obvious beauty may be a hair too much for him to expect. The pert, cute Jeannine Marquie might have been a better choice.
Love Song also has its ingratiating moments. There's an early scene in which Harry gives Beane a psychology test, to which Beane supplies his usual circuitous answers. The passage would have worked better if Kolvenbach had simply referred to the test instead of asking Harry to administer it. The scene's a sore thumb—it's well-played, but its cornball nature leads us to believe we're going to be getting cornball the rest of the night.
Happily, we don't. This is a perfectly sweet, 135-minute one-act, accomplishing just about everything Kolvenbach sets out to achieve. The exchanges are spontaneous and unaffected, and Ashley Johnstone's lights are a marvel as they play on Beane's living room, fairly changing its shape to suit Beane's innermost moods. Good show, and an even better message: The phenomenon of romantic love, in all its forms, isn't going away anytime soon.
This review is based on the performance of Jan. 28. Love Song runs through Feb. 22 at Cygnet Theatre's Rolando venue, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. In the College Area. $30-$34. 619-337-1525, www.cygnettheatre.com.