Aspen Fringe’s ‘Love Song’ sings in many voices
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – When Louis Lotorto first recited, out loud, his lines from John Kolvenbach’s comedy “Love Song,” it was during a virtual read-through several weeks ago. Lotorto and his co-star, Hilary Ward, were in Los Angeles; other actors were in Basalt; and director Jim O’Connor was in South Carolina. The conference technology they used, ooVoo, was balky, and the sound went in and out. “It sounded like you’re talking through tin cups,” Lotorto said.
Yet Lotorto could hear the playwright’s voice loud and clear. The humor, the humanity and the rhythm of Kolvenbach’s play transcended the technical glitches.
“The play still rang through. It was still moving to hear it,” Lotorto said. “Kolvenbach writes in a real wonderful musical style; his rhythms are specific and structured. For the actors rehearsing it, it’s like playing a fast game of ping-pong without the ball falling off the table. His dialogue sings.”
Kolvenbach’s talent has earned praise in Chicago, where Woody Harrelson and Kyle MacLachlan starred in his play of fraternal feuding, “on an average day,” and in London, where a production of “Love Song” earned a nomination for an Olivier Award.
Now, the 44-year-old playwright is getting a thorough exploration in Aspen. The second annual Aspen Fringe Festival opened last week with a staged reading of “Goldfish,” his play about the bad advice and examples parents hand down to their children. Thursday, the Fringe Fest continues with a full production of “Love Song”; it runs through Saturday, June 5 at Aspen High School’s Black Box Theatre.
“Love Song” stars Lotorto as the off-center Bean, “who’s a little different from everyone else,” Lotorto said. “He’s not mentally challenged; he just sees things from a different perspective. If I had to diagnose him, I’d say he’s got Asperger’s syndrome, where people retreat into their own world, isolate themselves.”
Bean’s world, though, is intruded into by a burgler. The invasion becomes a catalyst for Bean to change, and through him, change, for the better, spreads to those around him, especially to his unhappily married sister, Joan.
“He blossoms into this new person, a reborn human,” said Lotorto, who is joined in the cast by Roaring Fork valley actors David Ledingham, Ilene Seeley and Lee Sullivan, as well as Los Angeles-based Don Mackay, who, with Ledingham, is the founder of Pegasus Repertory Theatre, the producer of the Aspen Fringe. “And he becomes this vehicle for transformation for everyone around him.”
For director O’Connor, who heads the MFA directing program at the University of South Carolina and who directs regularly at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, part of Kolvenbach’s talent is the ability to touch multiple emotional and stylistic bases in one play.
“Love Song,” O’Connor said, “flies back and forth between wat appears to be a situtation comedy and some really serious stuff. Then back to comedy, a mystery play, to a ‘Twilight Zone,’ back to a sitcom. He packs into less than two hours a lot more than you could see in an entire night of TV.”
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