“Love & Money” at the Signature Theatre in New York City
By Zander Opper

“Love & Money,” A. R. Gurney’s extremely slender yet agreeable new play, opened last night at the Signature Theatre in New York City. A coproduction with Connecticut’s Westport Country Playhouse, “Love & Money” has been given a first class production by director Mark Lamos, with an especially sparkling star performance by Maureen Anderman. Running under 90 minutes, this play can hardly be considered a major work, but, for what it is, it is a mildly enjoyable lark, if you don’t go in expecting anything more than that. Filled with Cole Porter tunes, a talented group of actors, and a few good laughs,“Love & Money” is pretty slight, but it remains pleasant enough throughout.

The chief virtue of “Love & Money” is definitely Maureen Anderman’s portrayal of the leading character of Cornelia. As the play begins, Cornelia is in the midst of divvying up her money and the items in her New York apartment before she is to enter assisted living, or, as she hates to put it, “a nursing home.” On Michael Yeargan’s good-looking set, Cornelia is first seen at her desk writing out a series of checks to charities.

It must be said that there really isn’t much of a plot beyond this opening set up, but Maureen Anderman delivers all of her lines and scenes with a sheen of elegance and grace. Let this actress talk about the deceased members of her family, and one feels the piercing ache in her heart. At other moments, especially when talking about Dickens or her favorite Cole Porter songs, she positively glows. The play is lucky to have Maureen Anderman at its center, for she brings out the best in A. R. Gurney’s writing.

The other characters in “Love & Money” are rather perfunctory, but the actors playing them are quite good. Joe Paulik is good-looking and engaging as Cornelia’s young lawyer and the spicy Pamela Dunlap makes the most of her stock character of the maid (and she does get to deliver some zingers with relish). Kahyun Kim, as a Julliard student looking to get a piano, has very little stage time, but she puts over a pretty dandy rendition of “Make It Another Old-Fashioned, Please.” Finally, with shades of John Guare’s “Six Degrees of Separation,” the talented Gabriel Brown enters midway through the play as a long-lost and unbeknownst heir.

Not very much more happens in “Love & Money,” sorry to say, but Mark Lamos has directed the play with a firm hand and a smoothly paced production that makes the show seem stronger than it really is while watching it. Add in the contributions by costume designer Jess Goldstein and lighting designer Stephen Strawbridge, and the show is certainly easy enough to sit through. But is that enough? “Love & Money” is definitely a production with more style than substance.

Still, the play can be hailed as a triumph for Maureen Anderman, who is certainly worth seeing. It is only fitting that A. R. Gurney’s “Love & Money” at the Signature Theatre ends with the talk of food: for those attending the show expecting the main course, you will likely be disappointed. But, as a light and sometimes tasty appetizer, “Love & Money” may be just the ticket, if that’s all that you are craving.

“Love & Money” continues performances at the Pershing Square Signature Theatre in New York City through October 4, 2015. For tickets, please visit http://www.signaturetheatre.org or call the box office at 212-244-7529.

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