Pictured: Brian Shortess. Photo by Vida Bikales.
Review: SHE LOVES ME at The Barn Players
By Marissa Carter
SHE LOVES ME, based on a play by Miklos Laszio, and adapted by Frank Matosich Jr. is the quintessential romantic comedy. Presented in the round by The Barn Players, it is a delightfully playful experience.
The staff of Maraczek’s Parfumerie knows a lot about romance. After all, their job is to provide women with all the essential ingredients to look their best in order to entice their lover’s interest. Yet, when it comes to their personal lives, these characters have a lot to learn about matters of the heart.
From a plot perspective, this show has everything you could want in a romantic comedy. First, you have the main storyline where Georg Nowack (Brian Shortess) and Amalia Balash (Krista Eyler) are secret pen pals who love each other on paper but despise each other in real life. This story is well-complimented by the rich subplots of an unappreciated romance between Ilona Ritter (Jessica Alcorn) and Steven Kodaly (Steven Ansel), a doomed marriage for Mr. Maraczek (Craig Aikman), and a whole host of other issues including rising ambitions and difficult friendships. Each plot is well-developed and resolved throughout the show in a way that is as endearing as it is captivating.
Each character has a chance to shine with songs that reveal their heart’s desires and serve to further the story, and the entire cast does an impressive job bringing the characters to life and filling them with very believable passion and energy.
Though the whole cast was great, we are treated to a few standout performances, including Aikman, who’s touching portrayal of Mr. Maraczek makes you want to laugh and weep for him in turns; as well as Alcorn, whose fiery portrayal of Ilona is so funny and full of strength that I wanted to stand up and cheer. Choreographer Valerie Martin outdoes herself in the song “Romantic Atmosphere.” The song, led by Joell Ramsdell as the Waiter, contains so much hilarious action that I laughed through the entire scene.
Unfortunately, my overall enjoyment of the show was diminished by the music itself. The volume of the orchestra was so high that it overshadows some of the songs and dialogue. This is particularly a problem with Eyler, who has a tendency to whisper her lines or lose volume when singing in her lower register. Though in some shows this may not be a problem, SHE LOVES ME has such witty writing, and so many of the songs contain exposition that it makes every line important, and I ended up feeling like I was missing out on a lot each time the words were drowned out.
Even so, the rest of the show was so well done that it was easy to ignore those few annoyances and get lost in the action. Theater in the round is a huge challenge, and The Barn Players meet it well. The sets are simple yet detailed, and every scene is arranged in a way that feels realistic while making it easy for every member of the audience to enjoy the show.
In the end, despite having a few minor issues, SHE LOVES ME is a delightful show that I would love to watch again. It is always a joy to visit a company where every single member is so invested and obviously thrilled to be involved. Their passion and excitement fill the theater and makes it impossible not to join in.
SHE LOVES ME runs through May 7th. For more information visit thebarnplayers.org.