FIRST LOVE: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman

(photo credit: Monique Carboni)

I don’t usually want for words, whether written or verbal….but this show left me speechless….and not in a good way.

It was honestly a painful theatrical experience, despite the valiant acting efforts of the two seasoned leads.

My friend, who accompanied me, often reminds me of my “pet phrase” (which I always hesitate to use)….and this got produced why?!  Even 85 minutes with no intermission was too long.

The premise is a touching and appealing one, inspired by a Beckett short story ‘First Love.’ Scruffy Harold and artsy Edith, both seniors, meet on a park bench and unexpectedly fall in love.  At their ages, one would imagine they have had their respective share of emotional baggage, self doubt, hopes, fears, etc, and neither anticipated finding true love at this life stage.  They delight in having randomly discovered each other and enter into a relationship, but then have a falling out, yet ultimately decide to rekindle where it all began — back  on the bench.  The bench, in fact, takes on quite a life of its own, serving as a couch, table and even a bed where they have sex.

Starring Michael O’Keefe, wh0 gives it his physical all (he nearly tripped mounting a table the night we went) including disrobing to his skivvies, and Angelina Fiordellisi, who has both a lovely singing voice and compelling presence, make the most of the material. Frankly, given the acting chops and credentials of both, this production felt like each deserved better. The likeable Taylor Harvey also stars…..playing a quirky, fantastical supporting role.

The show features set design by Edward Pierce (Broadway: Wicked, Amazing Grace), costume design by Theresa Squire (Broadway: High Fidelity), lighting design by Paul Miller (Broadway: Amazing Grace) and sound design by Christian Frederickson (SITI Theatre’s Antigone, Trojan Women).

Some theatregoers might appreciate the whimsical sensibility of playwright Charles Mee, but I’d venture to say he is an acquired taste.

Directed by Kim Weild, First Love runs through July 8 at Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce Street). Tickets are $65-$95 and are available at or by calling Ovation Tix at 1.866.811.4111.