How funny is the play “The Love List”?
“I read the script, and I was laughing out loud reading it by myself,” said Alison Monda, who stars in the comedy, now in its opening weekend at Harlequin Productions.
“The first time I read it, I loved it,” said Scot Whitney, who’s directing the show. “I just was laughing out loud. I thought, ‘There is no way that they can carry this story to the end to a really great conclusion. They are going to cheat. I couldn’t believe it when I got to the end. I finished the play and I thought, ‘I’m doing this play.’ ”
The play, by Canadian playwright Norm Foster, involves two middle-age men who ask a gypsy matchmaker for the perfect woman. The matchmaker promises her clients a person who fits the top 10 traits. When that woman appears, the consequences are unexpected, and along the way, the guys keep changing what’s on their list — and the woman shifts along with their priorities.
Whitney, Harlequin’s managing artistic director, first directed the show in 2005 — and he loves it just as much now as he did then.
That’s why, when the lead actor for Harlequin’s planned production of “Cyrano de Bergerac” was injured and Whitney suddenly found himself needing to mount another show quickly, the director chose “The Love List.”
He’d been wanting to do it again and had been looking for the right actress for the role of Justine, the perfect woman.
“She is every man’s dream girl, and she has to play amazing levels of farce and comedy,” Whitney said. “She has to have an amazing singing voice. And she has to be a whole bunch of things.”
During the summer, Monda caught his eye. She was starring in “Summer in the Sixties,” the musical revue directed by Linda Whitney, Whitney’s wife and co-artistic director. He decided to put the show in the 2013 season if he could get her to play the role.
“When the actors were warming up one day, I turned around and looked at her and she was doing some crazy thing,” Scot Whitney said. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s her.’ ”
“I can definitely see why he thought it would be perfect for me,” said Monda, who also starred in “Sixties Kicks” and “A Stardust Christmas.” “It takes a lot of energy. I’m bouncing around; I’m flipping onto furniture; I’m rock climbing on dinner tables.
“The way I approach acting is that it’s easier for someone to pull me back than to try to get more out of me. I try to show that when I audition and when I perform.”
When the plans for “Cyrano” fell through, Whitney called Monda, and although she’s working on two feature films (the locally produced horror flick “Reunion” and the thriller “Shadowed,” also being filmed locally but with Los Angeles filmmakers), she jumped at the chance.
“It’s like playing a bunch of different characters in one show, which is really, really fun,” she said. “My favorite thing to do is make people laugh. This show really gives me the opportunity to do it.
“During the read-through, we had to stop a whole bunch of times while we were reading our lines because people were laughing so much.”
And the laughs are at the cost of both sexes, Whitney said.
“Men and women are different,” he said. “In Olympia, that can be a scary statement, but let’s admit that. What I found so gratifying when we did this before is that women are so delighted at how the play makes fun of men and of men’s attitudes toward women, and men seem very gratified that at last somebody had the nerve to tell the truth about how it really is.
“It’s just so consistently funny,” he added. “It’s kind of Neil Simon meets ‘The Twilight Zone.’ ”