Fluffy dessert at Andiamo Novi Theatre

By Donald V. Calamia

Maren Ritter and Patrick O'Reilly is "Five Course Love" at Andiamo Novi Theatre. Photo: HappenStance Productions

If you think you've had YOUR share of weird dates and unusual relationships, the five couples who come to life in HappenStance Productions' "Five Course Love" at Andiamo Novi Theatre probably have you beat. Or they run a close second.

The always-memorable actor Aaron T. Moore does double duty directing and playing the owners and/or waiters of five different restaurants in which the stories unfold. All the other characters are played by Patrick O'Reilly and Maren Ritter. And there are a lot of them!

In the first restaurant, unlucky-in-love Matt arrives at Dean's Old Fashioned All-American Down-Home Bar-B-Que expecting to meet a nice girl arranged by a dating service. Instead, he meets firecracker Barbie, who is looking for her Ken. What starts out as his lucky night turns out to be anything but. At least for now.

In the next scene, the wife of a local mobster is stepping out on her husband at Andiamo's - a nice plug that got a laugh on opening night - with one of his lieutenants, much to the chagrin of the owner, who doesn't expect the night to end well. It doesn't.

Then at Der Schlupfwinkel Speiseplatz, a dominatrix, her now-ex-boyfriend and her new play toy all discover something in common: They're all dating one another.

In Ernesto's Cantina, the beautiful Rosalinda (with her hips of delight) is romanced by a not-very-butch, but very full-of-himself bandito and his rival.

And finally, at the Star-Light Diner, Cupid finally scores a hit with a chance encounter between a rejected suitor and a lonely waitress.

While writer/composer Gregg Coffin imparts no great wisdom or offers no particular insight about the trials and tribulations of love and romance, "Five Course Love" is a tasty meal of fluffy entertainment thanks to the secret ingredients added by Moore's delicious team of theater artists. Since the recipe requires three actors to play 15 characters, any director worth his salt would hire the best actors and singers available to bring the story to life. And that means performers who know how to create totally unique characters beyond a simple costume change. In that regard, director Moore chose extremely well.

To call O'Reilly and Ritter's characters "colorful" would be an understatement, and both tackle theirs with joyous glee. O'Reilly's Guillermo and his bisexual boy toy had me laughing out loud, as did Ritter's mob wife and dominatrix. And both tugged at my heartstrings in the final scene - although the author tries a little too hard to be profound.

And what about Moore? Once again he proves why he is one of the area's top performers.

Music direction and accompaniment by Matthew Kulbacki is fine. The tunes, however, are serviceable (and occasionally reminiscent of more familiar show tunes). Ultimately, though, they are forgettable. (Twenty-four hours later, I can't remember a single one.)

But what I do recall are the smiles Moore and his team brought to my face on a cool, Thursday night in Novi. And sometimes that's the most perfect dessert anyone could be served! (Except for chocolate!)


'Five Course Love'

HappenStance Productions at Andiamo Novi Theatre, 42705 Grand River Ave., Novi, Thursday-Sunday through Nov. 27. $15-$20; $49.95-$59.95 per couple for dinner and show. 248-348-4448. http://www.andiamonovitheatre.com

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