Tommy Schrider and Polly Lee in How I Fell in Love
(© Kim T. Sharp)
Tommy Schrider and Polly Lee in How I Fell in Love
(© Kim T. Sharp)
Joel Field's delightful romantic comedy, How I Fell in Love, now at the Abingdon Theatre, plays out in 90 intermissionless minutes like an episode of How I Met Your Mother fused with some of the wittier philosophical observations from When Harry Met Sally -- which is not surprising, considering Fields has an extensive background in television. The snappy dialogue suits his slightly neurotic characters well as they tell (and show) us how they fell in love.

Beginning as two monologues, the play brings us into the heads of Nessa (Polly Lee), a very talkative but sweet doctor in residence, and Todd (Tommy Schrider), a highly intelligent carpet layer who doesn't have enough confidence to pursue what he wants professionally or romantically.

Nessa falls for an older married doctor, Eric (Mark Doherty), against her better judgment, and Todd strikes up an odd conversation about Fresca with an eccentric actress, Louise (Roya Shanks). These relationships lead both Todd and Nessa into therapy when Eric stops returning Nessa's calls after a brief affair and Louise tells Todd she just got engaged while they're on what he thinks is a date.

Todd and Nessa wind up in the same waiting room, and over the course of weeks, get to know each other through short conversations before their appointments. After a while, they realize that they're helping each other more than being in therapy, so they decide to pool their money and take a little trip together. This launches them into a relationship ignited more by compassion than passion.

Jules Orchoa's simple staging seamlessly blends Fields' scenes together, making the many time jumps feel as part of the natural progression of Todd's and Nessa's lives. There's an incredible honesty that pulsates through the show, allowing Fields to get away with some dialogue that might feel corny in a different context.

Schrider and Lee have an irresistibly comfortable chemistry that enables them to pour their hearts out in front of us without it seeming contrived. As they wrestle with questions of identity and the meaning of true love in often funny ways, we start to question our own definitions of that tricky four-letter word. Indeed, Todd sums up their relationship deftly towards the end of the play when he tells Nessa, "we both think we're not worthy of being loved, but we each know the other one is worthy".