By Nancy Wozny
The folks at Nova Arts Project are determined to keep their audiences delightfully off center. Such is the case with their newest offering, Jeff Goode's Love Loves A Pornographer, a play that slides in between farce, comedy, and Victorian parlor drama with a giddy ease. Imagine Oscar Wilde on steroids, George Bernard Shaw with less of a socialist chip on his shoulder, or how about Harold Pinter with less doom? We never quite know if or when Goode is playing it straight, and therein lies the fun and sassy punch.
Love gets off to a twisted start: the Lady Lillian and Lord Cyril Loveworthy have invited their neighbors, the Rev. Miles and Millicent Monger, over for some tea. Lord Loveworthy is a novelist and a pornographer. Miles Monger is a self- important literary critic from The Times of London, who made Lord Loveworthy's career with his break-out first novel but has since not said a decent word. Turns out there's been some naughty stuff going on between the critic and Lady Loveworthy, every detail of which she has penned in her diary - and every detail of which has ended up in Lord Cyril's best-sellling lewd books. The plot thickens when daughter Emily arrives with her betrothed Earl, whom the Loveworthys mistakenly think was a real earl. He's a real Earl all right, complete with a dog-skin cap and a chain of very successful pornography shops.
The Nova Arts cast ate Goode's word fest alive, chomping down on every syllable with zany glee. Timothy Evers gave a star turn as the groveling, tick-infested, flustered, squirmy, smarmy, back of jitters, pompous, blowhard of a critic. He was always guiltily clutching and twisting his hands as if he has just slaughtered the chamber maid in the kitchen. Sean Patrick Judge lent an upper-crust nobility to the porn profession in his crisp performance of Lord Cyril. His rambling verbosity felt nearly natural. Jenni Rebecca Stephenson imbued the Lady Lillian with a demonic intensity. Melissa N. Davis was all innocence and female frailty as the critic's wife, who spends most of her time reading Lord Loveworthy's illicit books. The not-exactly-an-earl Earl was brought to crude life by Bobby Haworth. As his sweetheart, Katrina Ellsworth was. all bouncy girlishness. Fennimore, the butler, was dutifully performed by Wayne Barnhill.
Rob Kimbro's smart direction kept the drama on a slippery slope, never quite letting the audience settle in a known place. The action played close to the words, which rip at lightening speeds, at times feeling like a Victorian poetry slam. Brian White's set design was full of clever visual tricks, such as a leopard print rug, a stack of Seventeen magazines in the corner, and a television screen disguised as a painting. Kiza Moore's costumes played hopscotch through the periods, adding to that unsettling feeling that something was not quite right in this parlor. Sarah Lazorwitz's lighting design nicely transformed the ordinary Barnevelder space into something extraordinary.