Theater review: ‘The Love List’ at Flat Rock Playhouse

THREE'S COMPANY: What are the top-10 qualities of a perfect mate? From left, Preston Dyar, Ryah Nixon and Scott Treadway attempt to answer that question in 'The Love List.' Photograph courtesy of Flat Rock Playhouse
THREE'S COMPANY: What are the top-10 qualities of a perfect mate? From left, Preston Dyar, Ryah Nixon and Scott Treadway attempt to answer that question in 'The Love List.' Photograph courtesy of Flat Rock Playhouse

The cautionary maxim “be careful what you wish for” is an understatement in the fantasy play The Love List by Norm Foster, showing on the main stage of Flat Rock Playhouse through Saturday, June 30.

To obtain the perfect gift for his isolated best friend, Bill (played by Scott Treadway), Leon (Preston Dyar) pays a visit to an old Gypsy matchmaker. The result: For Bill’s 50th birthday, Leon gives him a blank top-10 list of the greatest attributes for a significant other. When he finally convinces Bill to fill it out, something very strange happens. A beautiful woman named Justine (Ryah Nixon) appears in Bill’s apartment, and she is certain they are in a committed relationship. Soon, the two friends realize the woman is their own creation, and her personality changes whenever they tweak the list.

The upbeat comedy is dexterous, but the script owes more than a bit to the forgotten 1980s film romp Weird Science. A fan of that film, written and directed by John Hughes, will certainly like this play. However, the film is much better. This is largely due to the female character of Weird Science (played by a fetching Kelly LeBrock) being aware that she is, in fact, a creation. Such a twist gave her empowerment and helped guide the adolescent boys to understand themselves.

In the play, the love interest is more like an entertainingly goofy apparition. With the male characters being adults, it becomes a statement of superficiality and control. It all works if we suspend our disbelief and don’t think too deeply. But we keep wondering why they didn’t return to the matchmaker when they realized the list was magical. If they had, it would have been a great opportunity for an additional character and added a level of seriousness to the play’s consistent lightheartedness.

The two longtime FRP staples, Treadway and Dyar, are outstanding — not surprising given their history together. Their relationship onstage feels like “The Odd Couple” meets “Frasier.” Both have a sophisticated air about them, which allows even the biggest stick-in-the-mud to laugh at a sex joke (and there are plenty here). It is diverting to see Treadway and Dyar erasing and rewriting the list, changing Justine back and forth like a robot.

Nixon certainly has an admirable flair for comedy. She keeps up the pace, rapidly transforming into many different personality traits. It is a hoot to watch. On the other hand, there is a lack of substance. It would have been more interesting to see the part played with less farce.  Also, her blaring blonde wig throws attention away from her undeniable charm.

Lisa K. Bryant has directed a cheery production that is winning and easy to like. For those looking for a good time, it is impossible not to laugh at The Love List.  Most importantly, we are reminded that the perfect person doesn’t exist, and it’s often our flaws that help make us unique and lovable.

WHAT: The Love List
WHERE: Flat Rock Playhouse, 2661 Greenville Highway, Flat Rock, flatrockplayhouse.org
WHEN: Through Saturday, June 30. Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Matinees on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. $20-$52

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About Kai Elijah Hamilton
Kai Elijah Hamilton was born and raised in Western North Carolina. A poet, screenwriter and playwright, he is also a published film and theater critic. Hamilton is a creative individual with a wide range of talents and interests. He is an Award Winning Actor (Tom in "The Glass Menagerie") and Director ("A Raisin In The Sun"). He previously served as Artistic Director at Hendersonville Little Theatre and has a B.A. in theater and film from Western Carolina University. In 2016, Hamilton's play "The Sleepwalker" won a spot in the first annual Asheville National 10-Minute Play Festival by NYS3. His play "Blackberry Winter" was a finalist in the elite Strawberry One-Act Festival in NYC winning Best Short Film/Video Diary. Hamilton is also the author of the full-length southern-gothic play "Dry Weather Wind" which has been called "Important. Relevant to the issues in today's time, and beautifully written..."

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