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Queens Chronicle

Sex, violence and comedy await — if you dare

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Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2017 10:30 am

A shocking tale of sex, morals and redemption, “Love is Dead!” makes for a mostly captivating couple of hours in its current rendering at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City, where it runs most nights through Sept. 23.

This dark — very dark — comedy marks the return of playwright Seanie Sugrue to the venue, which teamed up with his Locked in the Attic Productions to present the piece, which Sugrue also directed.

Described as “a paralytic presentation of murder, deceit and sexism,” the play is presented, sans intermission, as a series of three short stories or “chapters,” with several of the characters appearing in more than one, forming a cohesive whole.

While several of the situations depicted are far-fetched, and the performances decidedly uneven, the play is powerful enough to hold one’s interest.

We are first introduced to Betsy and Walter, a long-married couple whose son, Trevor, arrives on the scene and breaks the news to them that he has just been raped — by a couple of Asian women. For the first of many times, things soon turn quite bloody.

Then there’s Cindy, who has decided to leave her boyfriend, Eugene, who is most certainly certifiably insane. Oh, yes, Eugene also happens to be in a relationship with Cindy’s best friend, Nancy. Again, the situation follows some bloody twists and turns.

It is in this portion of the play that things get temporarily stalled, in a prolonged conversation between Nancy and a man nicknamed Two Minute Kenneth.

Finally, and most satisfyingly, we encounter Maggie, a vengeful prostitute who dotes on her beloved goldfish, and one-eyed Daddy, who has apparently molested his young daughters, spent time behind bars for wife-beating and goes around quoting the Bible.

It must be said that the play is not for the faint of heart. But if you can handle violence (complete with gallons of stage blood, which colors each of the three scenes), foul language (the “f” word is dropped at least half a dozen times in the first minute or two), and adult situations, you should find much to enjoy here.

Certainly Sugrue’s is a voice to be heard; much of the dialogue is crisp and, more often than might be expected, quite funny. As director, he serves the writing well, keeping nearly the entire playing time at a snappy pace, with several unexpected developments eliciting gasps from the spectators.

Only one awkward directorial choice was noted on opening night last Thursday: It takes an unrealistically long time for a couple of the characters to notice a dead body in the middle of their living room floor. And throughout, guns are drawn (and, for the most part, used) so frequently, that it can become unintentionally comical.

But several standout performances go a long way in lending credibility. Julie Reifers and Richard Mazda are a perfectly matched pair as Betsy and Walter, fully inhabiting their characters and spewing venom toward each other as any unhappily married couple of long standing might do. And Mazda, the theater’s artistic director, carries the character into his opening and closing remarks — to wonderful effect.

Patrick Brian Scherrer is a stage natural, bringing the exaggeratedly chauvinistic Eugene to believable life. He handles repetitive rapid-fire dialogue with aplomb.

Perhaps best of all are Hannah Jane McMurray as the take-charge hooker who does whatever she must to get what she wants, and Myles O’Connor as her abusive Bible-thumping father.

The set, consisting primarily of countless meticulously arranged cardboard boxes, was ingeniously designed by Marie Therese Walter.

In keeping with Secret Theatre tradition, this production is provocative and likely to prove controversial. See it if you dare!

‘Love is Dead’
When: Thu.-Sun., Sept. 14-17; Wed.-Sat., Sept. 20-23, 8 p.m.
Where: The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23 St., Long Island City
Tickets: $18. (718) 392-0722,

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