- Photo courtesy of James Orr
- Checking it twice: Kevin Bass(seated), Helga Terre and Phil Powell in The Love List, at Little Lake.
Suppose you could design the perfect "mate." Write down a list of attributes, and within the hour, an ideal human will strut into your den, knowing everything about you and every naughty sex act you've ever wanted to try.
As playwright Norm Foster sees it, this fantasy is like threesomes and world domination -- a welcome dream, perhaps, but catastrophic in practice. The Love List, at Little Lake Theatre, is a cute little thought experiment: When you create the perfect woman, isn't flawlessness a kind of flaw?
Yet Love List is more than a high-concept farce. Yes, there are bad coitus puns and an "old gypsy woman," who is responsible for the magic femme fatale. But there are rich characters as well: Bill and Leon are best friends and, as we gradually discover, they don't really have any other friends.
Leon is a philandering novelist, Bill a statistician and shut-in. Unlike other farces, whose odd-couple male leads seem friends by accident, Bill and Leon show a serious bond. They rag each other and give unwelcome advice as only good buddies can. When a woman comes between them -- an ideal, imaginary woman to boot -- we actually worry about these guys, pathetic though they are.
Art DeConciliis has directed a natural production, with just the right number of raunchy jabs. As Bill, Kevin Bass is nerdy and excitable, and we can all imagine him geeking out over data sets. Playing Leon, Phil Powell serves as straight man, a kind of shrugging, quip-slinging Harvey Keitel. Despite some jumbled lines on opening night, this is a fine pair, and the best punch lines earn their laughs.
The scene-stealer is Helga Terre, who not only plays the perfect woman but also flaunts an Australian accent. With every adjective Bill jots on his love list, Justine modifies her behavior, transforming from harpy to dote to hot mess in seconds. This is a middle-aged trio, but Terre is just as flirty and fun as any number of 20-year-olds.
Foster is a Canadian playwright, which is sometimes evident in his references ("civil servant," "Bob's your uncle"). Conciliis has wisely avoided forced dialects. As Love List attests, there is only so much fantasy we can take.
THE LOVE LIST continues through Sun., Aug. 7. Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive (off Route 19), Canonsburg. 724-745-6300 or www.littlelake.org