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‘Romance/Romance’ full of fibs, flair, fun

Love is in the air as Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre stages the Tony-nominated musical “Romance/Romance.”

The play, as its name suggests, centers on love. But it’s also about lies – the lies we tell when we’re chasing love and the lies we tell when love has gone stale. It was written by Keith Herrmann (music) and Barry Harman (lyrics and book), and comprises two one-act plays: “The Little Comedy,” based on a short story by Arthur Schnitzler, and “Summer Share,” adapted from a play by Jules Renard.

Similar themes bridge both scenes, as do our four actors. In “The Little Comedy,” Andrew Ware Lewis and Darcy Wright are Arthur and Josephine, two upper-class singles living in late-1800s Vienna. Matt Wade and Joy Martin are Him and Her and play the supporting roles, rarely speaking but lending their singing voices and dancing skills to the festivities.

Arthur and Josephine are both bored with life and see few prospects for romance within their social circle. So they both decide to put on old clothes and head out on the town. That they are destined to meet is a given – it’s the plot device upon which a thousand romantic comedies are based. At one point Arthur describes the scenario, exclaiming, “It’s operetta! Pure operetta!” – and he’s absolutely right. “The Little Comedy” is just that – easy, breezy fun.

Once again, director Roger Welch displays a knack for casting. Lewis and Wright make a charming couple. Their singing voices sound wonderful together and they both display a real ease with the material and their characters.

An interesting aspect of “The Little Comedy” is that much of the story is told to the audience through letters Arthur and Josephine write to friends. Beyond singing together, the two have very little actual face-to-face dialogue. As a dramatic conceit, it works, especially because we have two people who can’t face each other truthfully.

Lies come into play again in Act II, “Summer Share.” Sam (Wade) and Barb (Martin) are longtime best friends – platonic best friends, both married to other people, Sam to Monica (Wright) and Barb to Lenny (Lewis). The two families gather for a weekend in the Hamptons, and after the spouses go to bed, the old friends start talking and drinking.

Soon, they’re in uncharted territory, talking about their feelings for each other. Meanwhile, Monica and Lenny, dressed in white like ghostly echoes, wander around, commenting as the other two contemplate an affair. There’s more weight in Act II as Sam and Barb stumble toward each other, and Wade and Martin display a full range of emotions. They both turn in effective performances.

The musical tone changes direction between the two acts – from a more light classical/operetta style in Act I to a more Manhattan Transfer vibe in Act II. As we’ve come to expect from CST, the music – under the direction of Steven Dahlke – is top-notch.

“Romance/Romance” is the perfect play for a summer’s night. Like a glass of perfectly chilled white wine, it’s cool, crisp and a lot of fun.

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