Jill Campbell, “Chemistry of Love”

May 13, 2013 (apology to subscribers; this is a re-post of an 8 year old piece I had previously removed)

Just wanted to expend a few words on a terrific play I saw yesterday at LaMama. Jill Campbell’s Chemistry of Love. The drama is about a quartet of four art world frenemies: the recipient of an extremely large grant, one that is contingent on her producing a new work of genius (Kim Merrill); her childhood bestie who has remained in New Jersey to raise a family (Jenne Vath); a Eurotrash aristocrat of some sort who is both patron and parasite (Dennis Parlatto); and the artist’s hipster boy toy , who gains art world notoriety for an exploitational art work (Matt Baxter Luceno).

But within a short time, with money and power at stake, all four of them are preying upon and exploiting each other (right down to their bodily excretions) all in the name of art. The play functions as both a satire and a tragedy. Playwright Campbell has done an impressive job of grounding a complicated cycle of developments in character. Everything that unfolds sort of springs from the seeds of the people we meet in the first five minutes.  Yet the play goes to a surprising places, ones I never would have seen coming in the opening beats. Jenne Vath, an actress of rare openness and vulnerability, not only makes us feel for the crass fish-out-of-water Karen (who ironically may actually possess more latent talent than any of them), but goes way out on a limb to take us to some truly harrowing places. George Ferencz gets subtle and effective work out of the close-knit ensemble, and does a terrific job of corralling our imaginations into the play’s world.  One of the show’s best treats is the video installation art piece the artist played by Merrill is working on for her grant. I thought it extremely well done, both plausible as a legitimate art work, and so nicely tied in with the events of the play itself. I think you will not be disappointed.

It’s up at LaMama’s First Floor Theatre through May 19. Tickets and info here.