It starts with a shipwreck and ends with a wedding. Sounds like Shakespeare, looks like Shakespeare, but it’s not exactly Shakespeare. It’s “Love in Bloom,” a new musical by Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie that contains a handful of Shakespearean plot-lines, extracted snatches of the Bard’s text and characters with slightly altered Shakespearean names. Complete with gods and goddesses of the wood, sisters disguised as men, lovers torn asunder, and plenty of magical mischief, the play is an upbeat romp that mostly pleases, but leaves you, at times, yearning for the original texts on which it’s based.
DeCarlo and Rudie play Orion and Talia, two majestic rulers of the forest plucked straight from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” They are the all-seeing, all-knowing narrators of the show, presiding with magic, sass and sarcasm over a tale of uncertain love that will save the day if it blooms and bring destruction if it fails. Prince Hamelot (Tyner Pesch) and Constance (Serena Dolinsky) must wed, or the world will essentially fall apart. In typical Shakespearean comedic fashion, several obstacles threaten the union, including mistaken identity, power-grabs, and good old fashioned churlishness. As the lovers try to find each other, references to the Shakespeare canon abound. There’s an unruly man-beast full of misplaced malice named Calabasas (Jake Levy), who looks and acts an awful lot like Caliban from “The Tempest,” and a pair of parental naysayers named Pyramid (Zack Medway) and Frisbe (Jake Levy), whose names just happen to rhyme with characters played by the famously funny rude mechanicals of “Midsummer.” Chaos ensues at every turn, but the magical narrators are determined to set things right.
Dolinksy sings up a storm as the lover in search of both her long-lost sister and the man with whom she’s smitten. Her comic skills carry much of the show, and her singing is top notch. Playing a woman disguised as a man for much of the time, the actress brings on the funny with her hammy boy imitations and frequent panicked outbursts. Matching Dolinsky in energy and talent is Melissa Gentry, who plays Constance’s sister and therefore shares copious stage time with Dolinsky. The two women pair up well, mirroring each other in the goofball humor of two siblings who can’t exactly see straight.
DeCarlo, who also directs, and Rudie, who wrote the book, words and music, have a rare chemistry that’s a pleasure to witness.
Through December 13 at the Santa Monica Playhouse. For tickets, call 310.394.9779.