For those plagued by the summer's humid denseness, Bailiwick Repertory's Pride Series offers the perfect antidote with their enjoyably breezy production of David Mauriello's Just Say Love. This light, philosophically charged romance between two unlikely companions is both agreeably cute and mildly heady, offering weary observers a charming evening of theater.
Computer geek/wannabe artist Guy is approached by preternaturally horny construction worker Doug in the park one afternoon. Working with Plato's theory that we all are perfect as solitary beings until the right match arrives, Guy tries to resist his attraction to the straight-identifying Doug. Soon, though, the two are meeting for afternoon trysts focused primarily on fulfilling Doug's sexual needs. Of course, emotional entanglements ensue and as Doug's female lover gives birth to their child, changes occur and life-altering decisions must be made.
Mauriello's script is ripe with slice of life humor and he nicely builds the joy and awkwardness of the maturing relationship between Guy and Doug. He reaches beyond the clich?©s of the sensitive gay man and the macho brute to establish two understandably human characters. A couple of monologues placed towards the end of the show alter his seamless flow of one and one encounters. The notion presented in the first?Äîthat God created the world from an orgasm?Äîis also unique, if un-tantalizing. He falters slightly with some too coincidentally cute moments, and some change of season interludes could have been accomplished more efficiently, yet these incidents do not harm the overall cozy strength of the show.
Director Michael Gillett simply and efficiently moves the action along. He also coaches realistic, deeply felt performances from his two cast members. Gillett's snappy directorial flow deadens momentarily with some long scene changes, but his emotionally intuitive nature shines throughout this reliably sweet enterprise.
As Guy, Todd Aiello delivers a believable, sincere and comically conflicted individual. He injects strength of bearing into circumstances that could have been construed as needlessly pathetic. In the more difficult role of Doug, Nathan Cann emerges as a performer of honorable instinct and credibility. Aside from a few performance-heavy moments, he gives a true heart and baffled emotionality to what could have turned into a stock portrayal. He is a joy to watch and makes your heart yearn for his slightly animalistic and eventual societal norm-rejecting anti-hero.
Granted, the most subversive element of this shiny production is the frequent use of Lou Reed's classic "How Do You Think it Feels." But, even old Lou, who has settled into domestic tranquility and his role as the Grandfather of Punk, would probably find much to enjoy in the quirkily charming Just Say Love. Mauriello, Gillett and the solid cast ultimately make this a summer oasis that many may want to indulge in.
Review by Brian Kirst, Chicago Free Press, July 18, 2007
This season’s sleeper "If the suggestive advertisement postcards for Just Say Love had you visualizing a porn play, think again.
Playwright David Mauriello’s 75 -minute two-character play is the disarming sleeper of the season, a gay romance that transcends sexual preference issues.... "
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Review by Jules Becker
"Despite the salacious image used to promote Just Say Love, currently playing at the Black Box Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, the play doesn’t contain any actual onstage nudity or sex--not quite; it does come close..."
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Review by Howie Green
JUST SAY LOVE: Steamy Connections at the Boston Center for the Arts.
"David Mauriello’s JUST SAY LOVE, starring James Ryen and Michael Lemieux, arrives just in time for GAY PRIDE month. As the play opens, Lemieux’s character is practicing his mantra. He’s been reading Plato and is taken with the notion of Platonic love. He’s trying his best to live on a higher plane: He’s a vegetarian. He works out and he’s determined to resist the allure of the physical. Then he meets Ryen’s macho carpenter.
Sparks fly in Mauriello’s edgy romantic comedy: Can a new age urban professional and a carpenter with identity issues find true love in the South End? Was Plato right — Are we all connected? Can a cat give up meat? Mauriello thinks so and you can find out through June 30th."
Preview by Beverly Creasey
“Mauriello accomplishes something that all playwrights aspire to achieve with their work; he actually puts a new spin on an old truth. Its beauty lies in the fact that it could have been two men, two women, or a woman and a man up there. This script is so bumblingly honest – never shirking when it comes to those embarrassing little moments of being in love, naked in its universal truths- that it just feels right for everyone."
S. R. Savage, THE WIRE
“A rare, sweet, romantic comedy that just happens to be about a relationship between two men. That, in part, is what makes it rare. It’s fair to say a good number of today's gay-related theater scripts focus on tragedy and bigotry. Laugh out loud comedy is hard to find as well, no matter what the subject. And “Love” definitely offers that. Sweet? Unless it’s a family show, which this decidedly is not, there aren’t too many “happily ever after” tales either.... Going against the tide, local author David Mauriello put together a well-written, thoroughly entertaining play that bridges sexual preference and gets at the heart of the heart.”
J. McCartin, Portsmouth Herald
“A romantic comedy that tells of a relationship between two men often comes across as a gay romantic comedy – a play with very particular themes, so specific as to diminish somewhat, the scope of its romance. Not so with JUST SAY LOVE, an original play written and directed by David Mauriello. This is not a play about homosexual love, or homosexual sex. But nor is JUST SAY LOVE , at heart, a tale of homosexual awakening. Mauriello’s story of Guy and Doug encompasses all these things, but it is ultimately much more ambitious. His is a play about the enigma of attraction itself, and he treats it as the intricate and ancient question that it is.
The language of playwright Mauriello’s work contains both lofty Platonic rhetoric and banalities about excretion; Eastern mysticism and no small amount of cock humor. Well-balanced and witty, the script is fast-paced in a way that demands a lot of its actors. But at its best, Mauriello’s production is not just intelligent and unexpected, but even bewitching. In our best and deepest loves, there is also a strangeness, something that’s eerie in its stealth and inexplicable familiarity. These are spooky things, and this production asks us to consider their meaning, and lets us feel the shivers. To watch a disbelieving, astounded Guy slowly raise his hands to Doug’s bare chest – and later to see Doug return the gesture- is almost to have witnessed a mystical act.”
M. Grumbling, Portland Phoenix
JUST SAY LOVE was nominated as best original script: See SPOTLIGHT, February 23,2006.
Portsmouth Herald, Portsmouth. NH