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Hot News

FROM THE DARTMOUTH - February 3, 2016
By Katherine Schreiber


On Saturday the new play “Mad Love” (2016) premiered at the Barrette Center for the Arts, Northern Stage’s new theater in White River Junction, Vermont. Written by Marisa Smith and directed by Maggie Burrows, the comedy follows the lives and romantic pursuits of four young adults living in New York City.

The comedy follows Sloane Hudson, a young Dartmouth graduate who has decided to take control of her life after a traumatic incident in a college fraternity. Sloane, who has given up on love and marriage, decides that she wants to have a baby through artificial insemination instead of settling down. However, when she asks Brandon, the man she is casually dating, to be her sperm donor, she finds that he has a different attitude towards love and romance.

The plot thickens after a Ukrainian hooker arrives at the apartment that Brandon shares with his brother Doug, who suffered minor brain damage after jumping out the window of his college fraternity. When the brothers discover that they might be in possession of a valuable baseball card, things get even more complicated.

Smith, a playwright who grew up in Hanover and attended Dartmouth for two terms, said that she drew inspiration for the play from the College. Smith said she learned more about the college’s social scene from Dartmouth students interning at the publishing company that she runs with her husband.

“I felt I had a real sense of Dartmouth, but as I talked to my interns I felt that there had been subtle changes in social culture,” Smith said. “I had been unaware of [these changes] over the past twenty years or so.”

These changes included the rise of a culture of meaningless sex and wild partying, Smith said. After talking to her interns, Smith decided to interview women in a Dartmouth sorority about their experiences with Dartmouth’s social scene, a project which eventually inspired “Mad Love.”

There are several other Dartmouth references throughout the play including the character Doug, who was inspired by the “defenestrator,” a D’04, who allegedly jumped out of a window of Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity.

Smith said that she tends to draw her inspiration from a wide range of sources, both conscious and subconscious. Katarina, the Ukrainian hooker, was drawn from a ten-minute play that she had written previously.

“Playwriting is not a linear process, at least for me,” Smith said. “It’s kind of like making a quilt.”

“Mad Love” first came to Northern Stage in Jan. 2014, when it was read at the New Works Now festival at the Briggs Opera House. Over the summer Northern Stage artistic director Carol Dunne contacted director Maggie Burrows, who had directed “The Fox on the Fairway” (2010) at Northern Stage in 2014, about directing “Mad Love.”

Smith worked closely with the director and the cast throughout the production process, Smith said.

“The director-playwright relationship can be kind of fraught sometimes,” Smith said. “But I’ve had a honeymoon, perfect relationship with the director.”

Burrows, the director of “Mad Love,” said that directing a new play was an exciting challenge.

“It’s a slightly different dynamic, where the script isn’t fixed,” she said. “You’re trying to listen to the play and let it whisper to you what it wants to do.”

Actress Alex Trow, who plays Sloane, also said that she enjoyed the challenge of working on a new play.

“When you work on an old play it’s definitely set in stone,” Trow said. “You have to work your way around the obstacles that are there. In this play the obstacles change every day, and you have to adapt to them, which is really fun.”

Although the play is comedic, it also deals with serious issues such as sexual violence and the darker aspects of college party cultures. Smith said that it is challenging to create a comedy that is humorous but still respectful.

“It’s a delicate balance,” Smith said. “You have to be careful of how things land.”

Burrows said that the real issues in the play added to the depth of script, and that she tried to respect the characters and their emotional states while still keeping the play funny.

“It’s a comedy, but it’s not just a fart, slamming-door, lots of jokes comedy,” she said. “It’s about real people, and to me that was really important.”

The play examines hookup culture and the implications of sex without love. After Sloane’s traumatic experience in the basement of a Cornell fraternity, she decides that she wants to keep dating and having sex, but without the burden of emotions or attachment.

“She’s trying to organize her life in a way that doesn’t depend on any other people, and that means shutting off any emotions, any protection or care,” Trow said.

Although Sloane’s case might be extreme, Trow said that playing Sloane has made her realize how much dating and attitudes toward love have changed. Trow compared the romance in the play to the long courtship in the movie “Brooklyn” (2015), in which the characters go on dates and get engaged before having sex.

“We live in a world where that type of romance really doesn’t exist anymore,” Trow said.

Trow said that putting on a play that examines modern dating and love for a Northern Stage audience, generally comprised of older patrons, creates a unique opportunity.

“For people who have seen other versions of [modern dating], it is kind of surprising and heartbreaking,” Trow said. “There are more heartbreaks now because we have more partners now.”

Although there are dark moments in the play, the core of the show is essentially lighthearted. Trow said that the play’s comedic twist on love and heartbreak came as a relief.

“Sometimes the theater is so dark and so sad,” Trow said. “Sometimes it’s nice to have drama and tragedy that ends in a fuzzy place.”

The showing of “Mad Love” marked the first world premiere at the Barrette Center for the Arts.

The play opened on Jan. 27, and runs until Feb. 13.
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FROM THE TIMES ARGUS - January 31, 2016
Theater Review: Fashions change, the comedy of love remains

Photo by Rob Strong Sloane (Alex Trow) makes an unexpected proposition to her sometimes-boyfriend Brandon (Thom Miller) in the premiere of Marisa Smith’s “Mad Love.”

Northern Stage is presenting the world-premiere production of a witty and charming comedy that could only occur today — yet it’s reminiscent of 1930s and ’40s screwball comedy movies.

Marisa Smith’s “Mad Love” is being presented through Feb. 13 at Northern Stage’s new Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction. Friday’s preview performance revealed a hilarious and often touching comedy, well cast and imaginatively produced.

The plot of “Mad Love” is nothing new; it’s the details that make in spark. Twenty-somethings, wealthy yuppie Sloane and Brandon, a schoolteacher with a blue-collar background, are enjoying a casual, mostly physical relationship when Sloane drops a bombshell: Would Brandon be her sperm donor?

Sloane doesn’t believe in love or marriage, or other people’s children for that matter, but figures one day she’ll want and trust Brandon’s genes. But Brandon is shocked, even angry. For, despite his free living, Brandon is rigid and uptight, about just about everything outside of his sex life.

Fortunately, Brandon’s brother Doug, suffering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) from a fraternity prank, can’t help telling the truth. With the added spice of a Ukrainian “escort” named Katerina, a valuable baseball card and a couple of geckoes, everyone comes to terms, sort of.

“Mad Love” is a 90-minute romantic comedy — and it’s hilarious.

Smith, from Hanover, N.H., is already a respected playwright, and that is reflected in the authentic situations and dialogue, as well as the wit and wisdom. There is some dialogue that is unnecessarily repetitive, and points overemphasized, but the show never dragged for a moment Friday.

That was, in part, due to Northern Stage’s excellent and well-cast production directed by Maggie Burrows. The only misstep was when Sloane or Brandon employed comic shtick, breaking their consistency. But this was for moments.

Alex Trow gave a dimensional performance as Sloane, believable, sympathetic and funny. Other than an overdone earnestness, Thom Miller’s Brandon was the perfect foil for Sloane — and everyone else.

Daniel Patrick Smith thoroughly enjoyed the role of Douglas, making this “court jester” touchingly disingenuous and hilarious. Laurel Casillo’s witty Mikaela added just the right amount of exotic humor. And they were clearly having a great time, which they shared with the sold-out audience.

Northern Stage’s physical production was particularly imaginative and effective. David L. Arsenault’s combining multiple rooms worked well (save for the weird schoolroom), thanks in part to creative lighting by Greg Solomon. Allison Crutchfield’s costumes and Theo Spielberg’s music design completed the contemporary picture.

Northern Stage’s “Mad Love” is a madcap romantic and comic romp in today’s mating minefield.

Northern Stage

Northern Stage presents the world premiere of “Mad Love,” a comedy by Marisa Smith, Jan. 27-Feb. 13, at the Barrette Center for the Arts, 74 Gates St. in White River Junction. Tickets start at $15 for students and $30 for adults. For tickets and information, call 296-7000 or visit www.northernstage.org. f
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FROM THE TOWNSMAN - January 18, 2016

The atmosphere can be stifling in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, especially if you've been having a very bad day like the Magrath sisters have. Really, more like an ongoing series of bad days.

Lenny, Meg and Babe find themselves with their backs to the wall in "Crimes of the Heart," Paul Kershaw's latest production currently running at the Key City Theatre. It's Southern Gothic set in the 1970s, and in Southern Gothic, the drama lurks in living rooms, and looms large in what's unsaid.

"Crimes of the Heart" is on the surface a comedy — the adventures of the three eccentric, charming Magrath sisters and their reaction to this "very bad day."

But underneath the laughter, of which there is plenty, there is a strong current of tragedy. The trauma of the sisters' past is revealed — namely, their mother's much talked about suicide (she hanged the cat along with herself, a macabre riddle everyone is still trying to decipher). Upon their mother's death, the girls were adopted by their grandfather, who is himself currently hospitalized.

Lenny is the eldest Magrath sister, the mother hen, lonesome and unfulfilled, her life symbolized by her "deformed ovary," a symptom oft discussed by her sisters. She maintains a precarious home in her grandfather's house.

Meg, whose singing career seems to have bottomed out, is back at home to help out, but she's bringing with her an uncomfortable secret of her own.

Then there's Babe, lively, loving and passionate, who cut short her destiny as chattel by shooting her powerful husband in his belly. Why? Because she didn't like his looks, she says. Prison is in the offing, but she's out on bail, and represented by the infatuated boyish lawyer Barnette Lloyd, who is carrying a "personal vendetta."

The sisters' nemesis is their cousin Chick, a prying busybody who never lets the sisters forget that they're just this side of trailer trash.

Rounding out the cast is Doc Porter, Meg's old flame from the past, now married but still neighbourly.

Each of the three Magrath sisters has been betrayed by their passions in a different way, and each is forced to face the "crimes of the heart" she has committed.

"Crimes of the Heart," written by Beth Henley and directed by Paul Kershaw, features a number of new faces on the local theatrical scene, who give us a deep look into the complexities of the human heart.

The play continues its run at the Key City Theatre continues Thursday, Jan. 21, through Saturday, Ja
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