- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 25, 2002

Mark Anderson, who has worked with Jerry Seinfeld and Robin Williams, thinks comedy today is too raunchy. So Mr. Anderson, owner of several comedy clubs around the country, has brought "Crazy Love" to the Washington-area theater scene.

Mr. Anderson has co-produced the show with John Branyan, and the two share the stage at Old Town Theater in Alexandria for most of the production, which lasts for little more than an hour.

"Crazy Love" takes a humorous look at relationships between men and women by highlighting their differences, and in doing so it celebrates those differences. The implication is that men and women have different but equal roles in family and society.

"Crazy Love" illustrates the value of long-term commitment and faithfulness. "Love takes a lifetime," Mr. Branyan says. "It takes that long to find out how to make the other happy and what annoys them, so you can do it again, and again, and again."

Mr. Anderson and Mr. Branyan rely heavily on humor to sail their ship. The weaknesses of the production are a slight lack of depth and Mr. Branyan's high-pitched imitations of his character's wife, who never appears onstage.

Mr. Branyan plays a character straight out of "Revenge of the Nerds." He wears a red dress shirt, yellow tie, blue slacks, white sneakers and a black mop of hair on top of spectacles.

The only reason we believe he's actually married is that he talks about his wife the entire time. We would otherwise assume he was busy working on nuclear theory in a lab somewhere.

But he is a husband and father, and we see him visiting his psychologist, played by Mr. Anderson, who has been a clinical psychologist in real life for 20 years.

The whole production is essentially Mr. Branyan's entry into Mr. Anderson's office; some musical banter between Mr. Branyan and the nurse, played by Gilly Conklin; a monologue by Mr. Anderson; then a really long monologue by Mr. Branyan.

You could call it a song and two stand-up routines.

But it's what these guys are good at, and they obviously enjoy it. They are intent on enjoying it, since their art is driven by the belief that "humor heals."

One of the play's main goals is to provide a place for couples to come and laugh together. The producers call it "a nontraditional form of marital therapy."

The recently renovated playhouse, which was a vaudeville house in the early 1900s and a movie theater later in the century, is illuminated with black lights, so that when the house lights are down, white shirts and play programs glow brightly.

Mr. Anderson enters the stage on a pogo stick.

Miss Conklin serenades the audience with a number called "It's Lonely When You're Stalking Your Lover."

Mr. Branyan starts off his monologue with a story about when his wife got carried off by muggers and his first thought was, "Boy, those guys are fast."

The mood is decidedly silly, and if Mr. Anderson and Mr. Branyan were not so polished with their stand-up skills, the thing would fall flat on its face for trying so hard to get a laugh.

Mr. Anderson talks about how men are task-oriented while women are relationship-oriented, and then describes the difference between the sexes when it comes to communication: "It's like she's plugged into a satellite network and he's using two cans and a string."

Mr. Branyan, meanwhile, is a ball of energy, constantly pacing back and forth, waving his arms and doing various imitations of his wife, his mother and himself in various hilarious situations, such as being dragged behind a speedboat in his first attempt at water-skiing.

He depicts his mother as a deep-voiced, cigarette-sucking cartoon figure, which is very funny. His imitations of his wife, however, while sometimes funny, had this reviewer grasping for aspirin.

"Crazy Love" doesn't end without an attempt at providing depth to its story.

Mr. Branyan concludes his monologue with a touching story about his grandmother's fall into Alzheimer's disease and his grandfather's faithful care of her until the end.

The two were married for 70 years, and as Mr. Branyan fittingly concludes, "Love is not how you feel. It's what you do."

For that line alone, this play deserves the extension through June it recently received.


**1/2

WHAT: "Crazy Love"

WHERE: Old Town Theater, 815½ King St., Alexandria.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

TICKETS: $15 to $17

PHONE: 703/535-8022

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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