Playwright Mike Bartlett, who skillfully combined the past and future in his political drama “King Charles III” (which imagined a dark and divisive rise to power by England’s Prince Charles in the style of a Shakespearian history play), now casts a critical eye on the baby boomer generation and modern-day generational divide in “Love, Love, Love,” which is named after the opening line of the Beatles song “All You Need Is Love.”
A three-act comedic drama set in the domestic sphere but with an underlying political edge, “Love, Love, Love” is essentially an indictment of a husband and wife over a 50-year period in England, depicting them during adolescence in the trippy 1960s, parenthood in the materialistic 1980s and retirement in the present day. Bartlett also puts their aimless son and whiny daughter on trial.
Act one is set in a dilapidated flat in 1960s London, where Henry (Alex Hurt), a proud member of the conservative working class, has brought his new girlfriend, the stylish, assertive Sandra (Amy Ryan), for dinner, only to see her fall for his younger brother Kenneth (Richard Armitage), a playful, pot-smoking college student with idealistic visions of the future.
Bartlett then flashes forward to Sandra and Kenneth’s home two decades later, where they each confess to cheating on each other and then share the news to their teenage children Jamie (Ben Rosenfield) and Rose (Zoe Kazan). Finally, Bartlett ventures into the present day, where Jamie and Rose are struggling to find a place in the world, while Sandra and Kenneth, now divorced, are coasting along.
The first two acts initially seem short and slight, but the play as a whole pays off in the end, as Rose forcefully accuses her parents of misguiding her and attacks their behavior as shameless and self-indulgent. As expected, Henry and Sandra return fire and criticize their daughter.
Michael Mayer’s production also becomes increasingly more entertaining as the atmosphere becomes more combative and the performances hit ridiculous extremes.