Despite the title and the timing, the chamber musical Romance, Romance is not so much saccharine as bittersweet. In two playlets set in separate times, locales and social strata, we see true love briefly blossom but ultimately surrender to socially-sanctioned cynicism or fidelity to an existing marriage. Slow Burn Theatre Company has found the groove connecting the two disparate pieces in which love is precious but doesn’t always prevail.
But the evening is not a dispiriting downer. The score by Keith Herrmann and book and lyrics by Barry Harman is suffused with such tenderness, charm, drollery and compassion for human frailty that simpatico audiences have been won over since it bowed off-Broadway and then Broadway almost 30 years ago, and become a staple of regional and community theaters.
Director/choreographer Patrick Fitzwater and his quartet of fine actor-singers Laura Hodos, Mike Westrich, Leah Sessa and company co-founder Matthew Korinko embrace those qualities to produce an entertaining evening featuring an adult’s more complex vision of the title’s virtue.
The first half, The Little Comedy, is based on a short story by Arthur Schnitzler (La Ronde) and is set in the drawing room upper class of 19th Century Vienna. Alfred Von Wilmers (Korinko) is a wealthy, handsome rake of a playboy. Josefine Weninger (Hodos) is a lovely well-heeled urbane woman-around-town. Both flit from shallow relationship to relationship motivated primarily by a losing battle to avoid boredom. Most of the ensuing tale is sketched out in letters each write to their best friends and the depiction of what is being described.