Theater review: 'Love Alone' engages audiences

CorrespondentMarch 3, 2014 

  • Details

    What: “Love Alone” presented by PlayMakers Repertory Company

    Where: Paul Green Theatre, Center for Dramatic Art, UNC-Chapel Hill

    When: 7:30 p.m. Mar. 4-8 and 11-15; 2 p.m. Mar. 8-9 and 16

    Tickets: $15-$40

    Info: 919-962-7529 or

The sudden death of a loved one throws family members into a whirl of emotions. If the death is from medical malpractice, those emotions can be inflamed by revenge and retribution. Deborah Salem Smith’s “Love Alone” explores the impact of such events on families and doctors with nonjudgmental balance. Few will come away from PlayMakers Repertory Company’s production unaffected by the issues it raises.

At a hospital, anesthesiologist Becca informs Helen that Susan, Helen’s partner of 20 years, did not come out of sedation properly and died. This is devastating not only to Helen and Susan’s daughter Clementine but also to Becca, who is just starting her medical career.

While Becca tries to keep the event from affecting her relationship with husband J.P., rock band singer Clementine clashes with Helen over legal action against Becca. Helen and Susan’s take on life had been nonconfrontational and forgiving, but Clementine, the only one legally able to bring suit, wants the truth about what happened.

Smith gives the characters flaws and fine points, with nothing just black and white. She artfully indicates the intertwining of these lives through separate scenes taking place at the same time in the same space.

Lee Savage’s realistic hospital waiting room setting allows rearrangement of furnishings to create apartments, offices and streetscapes. Director Vivienne Benesch makes full use of the playing area, adroitly meshing the overlapping scenes and dialog with clarity.

Benesch may feel the emotion-laden script needs no further emphasis, but the two leads curiously restrict communication of their turmoil. Julia Gibson’s Helen is suitably confused and distracted but expresses her distress too matter-of-factly. As Becca, Jenny Wales reacts to the suit more as an irritant than a potentially life-changing event.

On the other hand, Arielle Yoder shows a full range of emotions as feisty Clementine, while Patrick McHugh reveals J.P.’s loving patience and his breaking point. Derrick Ivey impresses as the crusty lawyer Mr. Rush; his questioning of Becca in a video deposition is a high point. And Kathryn Hunter-Williams again proves her talents as a humorous nurse, officious hospital representative and slick lawyer.

The script might benefit from being played in a more intimate space, but judging by the audible sniffles and extended ovation Saturday, it effectively engages the audience with its timely themes.


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