There’s not much true love in “Love, Love, Love,” British playwright Mike Bartlett’s biting satire on parents and children in a dysfunctional family observed over decades in this Roundabout Theatre Company production. Selfishness is a motif in the scathingly funny take enlivened by excellent performances, particularly that by Amy Ryan. Michael Mayer directs with precision that doesn’t let anybody off the hook.
In the first of three acts we meet Sandra (Ryan) and Kenneth (an excellent Richard Armitage) when they are students at Oxford in the 1960s during the era of the Beatles and youthful idealism. There is also Kenneth’s brother Henry (Alex Hurt), destined to drop out of the picture after Kenneth steals Sandra away from him.
Advance to 1990, long past the mood of the 60’s, in the second act when Sandra and Kenneth are married with two teenage children, Zoe Kazan as Rose and Ben Rosenfield as Jamie, who is already showing signs of disengagement and oddness. Rose is furious at the behavior of her parents, their confessions of infidelity and a decision to divorce, and she lets them know it with her shrieks, anger and total desperation.
By then we have witnessed the totally self-absorbed nature of Sandra and Kenneth in their respective lives, and that of their lives together, and this is cemented in the third act, set in 2010. An adult Rose arrives at her father’s fancy home with a request that he buy her a house, as she is totally at sea in her life and feels that she has no prospects and nothing to hang onto. A house would fulfill an illusion of having something solid. Her father is completely unsympathetic. We also see her brother Jamie as a hopeless case.
However, the relationship between Kenneth and estranged Sandra shows signs of fresh togetherness, firmly rooted in a don’t-give-a-damn attitude toward their offspring when measured against their own desires. The author provides a sharply funny look at this kind of parenthood, which is a welcome antidote to the parental platitudes often served us in plays, films and TV programs. Amy Ryan in particular raises her character to an art form as she energizes a larger than life persona in a performance that is as funny as it is award-worthy. At the Laura Pels Theatre, 111 West 46th Street. Phone 212-917-1300. Reviewed October 30, 2016.