“About Love, “ A Young Boy’s Journey of Love

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Photo by Russ Rowland

While reviewing the play “About Love,” at the Sheen Center, located at 18 Bleecker Street in Manhattan, I was reminded of a 1971 movie entitled “Summer of ’42.” The play also made me think of the character Estella, the beautiful and haughty adopted daughter of Miss Havisham who taunts and attracts the young boy Pip in the Charles Dickens’ classic “Great Expectations.” The theme being young unrequited love.

A Russian period piece, “About Love,” is scripted and directed by Will Pomerantz, and musically orchestrated by Nancy Harrow. Inspired by Ivan Turgenev’s short story “First Love,” Pomerantz sets his play in the Moscow and St Petersburg countryside during both the summer and winter of 1833.

At first glance of his neighbor, 20-year-old Zina (Silvia Bond), 16-year-old Peter (Jeffrey Kringer) is smitten. Zina and her aristocratic mother played by Helen Coxe, are renting a nearby cottage. As it happens, although titled as a princess, the old money pair have fallen into hard times and only have the memory and pretense left of their former way of life. In fact, the princess has resorted to relying on the good graces of those willing to support the decayed reminisce of old aristocracy. However, the beautiful Zina still maintains the vestiges of her royal breeding, and can be gracious and charming, as well as haughty and cruel.

Holding court, Zina surrounds herself with suitors consisting of Dr Lushin, Vonifaty and Dmitri (all portrayed by Dan Domingues), Masha, and Count Malevsky (characters enacted by Helen Coxe). Each suitor is vying for the attentions of Zina who toys with their affections, caring less about any of them. Peter, the youngest among them and new to love, wears his feelings on his sleeve. Zina takes full advantage of his infatuation of her and brings Peter to his highest highs and lowest lows as he suffers the pangs of puppy love.

Excited by his passions and anxious to spent every moment he can with Zina, even though those moments are crowded with other suitors, Peter sneaks off from his cabin which he shares with his mother (Jean Tafler) and father (Tom Patterson) to attend the nightly amorous gathering of Zina worshipers. Blinded by his ardor, Peter fancies himself special in Zina’s eyes. However to her adult suitors, Peter is just a love struck boy and not to be taken seriously but is only a source of amusement.

The talented cast punctuates various scenes with songs like “About Love,” “Life is Short,” “Can’t Say Goodbye,” “A Little Blue,” et al., played to the accompaniment of Misha Josephs on guitar; Ryan Berg on bass; Steve Picataggio, drums; and Ben Sutin on violin.

Jealousy arises among Zina’s band of suitors when it is discovered that while she uses them for her amusement, she actually has a secret lover. Peter, since he lived nearby, was commissioned to spy on Zina and find out who the lover is; the discovery of who leads to Peter’s great disillusionment.

Eventually the summer ends and Peter’s family leaves their rented cabin and return home. Torn between love and disappointment, Peter never forgot his summer love and Zina remains in his heart and on Peter’s mind. But life and love can be fleeting and the idiosyncrasies of men ofttimes come with a price.

“About Love,” is the old story of the maturing of a young boy into a man and it’s being told at the Sheen Center.

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