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New this week: Romance/Romance

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Romance/Romance
Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy
Through July 15

Will true love conquer all? That is the question posed by Barry Harman and Keith Herrmann's comic musical Romance/Romance, in which two separate tales of male and female flirtations and relations—one set in the past and one in the present—illuminate the darker and decidedly more cynical side of love.

The first half of this latest production of Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy is an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's short story "The Little Comedy," which finds wealthy young Alfred (Brian Meyers Cooper) and cheeky socialite Josephine (Stacey Harris) playing a dangerous game of deception in fin de siècle Vienna as they don the clothes and personalities of lower-class people (she a clerk in a milliner's shop and he an impoverished poet). The two meet and fall in love under the dazzling city lights, where bawdy dancing, wine guzzling and lovemaking sets off the lively pace of the play. But the two characters only fall in love with the mere idea of one another, until a big reveal at the play's end finds the two young lovers gushing over the mere "operatic" nature of their little deceit and walking into the sunset hand-in-hand.

The second musical romp through love is less whimsical, with a large dollop of modern-day realism added to the plot. Updated from the 19th-century play Le pain de menage by Jules Renard, "Summer Share" puts a critical eye to long-term commitment as it tests the boundaries of fidelity. During a balmy August night at the Hamptons, best friends Sam (Brian Myers Cooper) and Monica (Stacey Harris) must explore the nature of their relationship and come to terms with their own sexual attraction and romantic notions, while facing the commitment they have to their individual spouses.

Here, the heavy-handed stylization of director Lauren Kennedy, a Broadway star and Raleigh native, is most evident. Intricate dance numbers and flamboyant duets and solos undercut the necessary emotional depth of the subject matter, while the witty tongue-in-cheek satire of the first piece is inevitably lost in the overwhelming visual decadence of the second act. Still, love is a sentimental subject at its best, and the flavor and tone of Kennedy's production oozes with a rich mixture of sweet romance and Broadway bombast.

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