Andrew William Smith, Jeff Tuohy,
Joachim Boyle, and Barrett Hall
in LoveSick
(© Matthew Murphy)
Andrew William Smith, Jeff Tuohy,
Joachim Boyle, and Barrett Hall
in LoveSick
(© Matthew Murphy)
There is no shortage of great actors, clever directors, and talented composers in New York, but it's rare to find an exciting new writer that has his or her collaborators straining to keep up. Such a discovery is Lia Romeo, the daringly dark playwright who penned the seven skits in LoveSick or Things That Don't Happen, now at 59E59 Theaters.

Her comedy -- which comes out of the clash of her characters' emotional corruption against their genuine, open-hearted need for human connection -- is neither nasty nor mean-spirited, but rather playful and knowing.

There is a thematic link among the little playlets; they all center on love relationships that ricochet like pinballs in an arcade, every one of them teetering on tilt. In a nod, perhaps to director John Doyle, the actors also play instruments, sing, and sometimes perform some amusing choreography. Unfortunately, the eight songs in the show by Tony Biancosino -- which often comment on the action and serve as palate cleansers between the skits -- are mostly disappointing.

The first skit, which happens to be one of the best of the seven, tells the story of a young girl, distraught over getting dumped by a clearly rotten boyfriend, who calls a suicide hotline only to get a hilariously goofy counselor on the other end of the line who saves her life in more ways than one.

The engaging direction by Michole Biancosino gives much of the 85-minute, intermission-less show its energy and verve, aided by the work of lighting designers Ben Hagen and Joe Skowronski, and choreographer Douglas Hall.

The multitude of actors and actresses do well with their roles, with noteworthy turns by Pat McRoberts, who is also the band's lead guitarist; Jeff Tuohy, as a man in an elevator on the way to a wedding; and Barrett Hall as a man going to great lengths to win back a past love.

The director's most egregious misstep, however, is engaging the heavy-handed, unfortunately charmless emcee, Michael Nathanson. It's a credit to the production -- and especially Romeo's writing -- that it climbs out of the hole he creates at the top of the show.