A lyrical lack of specifics

Inis Nua Theatre Company presents Abi Morgan’s Lovesong

2 minute read
Martello stands at center wrapped in a shawl; Brown sits behind her. At left, Moses and Congdon hug tenderly in bed.
From left: Taylor Congdon, Gabe Moses, Mary Martello, and Kirk Wendell Brown in Inis Nua’s ‘Lovesong’. (Photo by Ashley Smith of Wide Eyed Studios.)

Welsh playwright Abi Morgan’s melancholy Lovesong gets its American premiere in a lyrical production from Inis Nua, but this story is intentionally low on specifics. It follows the relationship of one British couple: William/Bill and Margaret/Maggie, who move to the United States.

Time dilates in this show, and we see the couple at the end of their relationship (when Maggie’s health is declining) and the start of their time in the US. Mary Martello and Kirk Wendell Brown play the couple’s older incarnation; Taylor Congdon and Gabe Moses play them as young people. The play explores the spectral nature of memories as each of the characters, young and old, moves throughout space.

The underlying problem of Lovesong is the play’s relationship with its own vagueness. The open-ended story theoretically allows the audience to fill in details. However, as the show heads to its emotional climax, the lack of specificity makes it hard to feel empathy for the characters outside of the blurry archetypes they are portraying.

We know there have been some tensions and hard moments in Maggie and Bill’s relationship—as with any relationship—but we don’t get to see how they are resolved. We know they had to adjust to life in the United States, but this dramatic detail is never fully explored or explained. Nothing is, really; the audience just has to keep making it up. Perhaps for those with life experiences that match these characters—older, married, heterosexual, upper-middle class—it would be affecting, but it left this gay Millennial cold.

It works best, then, as a play of moments. There are dozens of transitions, glances, and lines delivered with tenderness that are beautiful, like Martello and Brown’s monologues as the characters' older selves. These moments, however, live in isolation. The whole adds up to less than the sum of its parts.

Martello and Brown give solid performances that feel grounded and lived in. Congdon and Moses, portraying the younger version of the couple, struggle to capture both the chemistry and the dialect work of their counterparts.

Kathryn (KC) MacMillan’s production is beautiful and sometimes downright magical to look at, with actors making surprising entrances and exits through Meghan Jones’s inventive set. K. O’Rourke’s movement is expressive but can sometimes feel over-the-top and out of place.

Lovesong is an ambitious endeavor, ruminating on life, love, and the passage of time. Despite strong production elements, the play fails to offer the connections that would make the work truly moving.

What, When, Where

Lovesong. By Abi Morgan. Directed by Kathryn MacMillan. $18-$35. Through June 23, 2024 at the Louis Bluver Theater at the Drake, 302 S. Hicks Street, Philadelphia. Inisnuatheatre.org.


The Drake is a wheelchair-accessible venue with gender-neutral restrooms.

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