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Five Course Love 

Writer and composer Greg Coffin has created a big playground in which a director and actors can romp.

click to enlarge Hurts so good: (from left) Jim Auld, Kate Neuber-Lechner and Steve Bruno in Five Course Love. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JAMES ORR.

Bucket o' charm, anyone?

Then head on out to Little Lake Theatre, where they're ladling out the charm hand over fist with Gregg Coffin's Five Course Love.

This musical, which debuted off-Broadway in 2005, consists of five vignettes about the crazy things done by people in love. Each scene is set in a different nationality-themed restaurant: Texas BBQ, New York Italian trattoria, German sex club, Mexican cantina and '50s American diner. The cast is two men and one woman playing all the parts, and by the end of the night each possible configuration has been given an airing.

On the downside, writer, lyricist and composer Coffin isn't a man of rarified theatrical vision. He offers little insight into his characters or their stories, and his lyrics rarely go beyond the "June/moon" idiom.

But what he lacks in brilliance he makes up for in workman-like ability. This is a very solid evening, and Coffin knows how not to overstay his welcome. He injects variety exactly when he should, never takes the show or himself too seriously, and writes a copious number of catchy, fun tunes.

What he's done exceptionally well is create a big playground in which a director and actors can romp. And that's precisely what's happening at Little Lake.

Director Art DeConciliis and actors Kate Neubert-Lechner, Steve Bruno and Jim Auld attack the piece with enormous enthusiasm. In the wrong directorial hands this could have been incredibly cloying, but with DeConciliis' focus it's all hopelessly charming.

Auld is especially funny as a "dangerous" Mexican bandito, and Bruno's powerful voice and comedy chops make each of his characters a winner. And Neubert-Lechner is a treasure -- an impeccably trained musical-theater voice, pitch-perfect comedy timing and a brilliant physicality. I spent most of the evening fixated on how she was using her hips … and that's not usually something I say about a woman.

And through some kind of weird theatrical alchemy, musical director and pianist Melissa Yanchak and her fellow musicians -- James Rushin on bass and Robert Fitchett on drums -- end up sounding like a whole orchestra.

 

FIVE COURSE LOVE continues through Sept. 24. Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive South (off Route 19), Canonsburg. 724-745-6300 or www.littlelaketheatre.org

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