Written and performed by Daniel Jenkins and Robert Stanton. Directed by Carl Forsman. At New World Stages. (CLOSED)
At what point does unrestrained silliness lose its privileged protection from serious criticism? What seems like a straightforward farce in the spirit of The 39 Steps gets an unusual spread of responses from critics who seem to expect more. More substance (Talkin' Broadway), more "impact" (North Jersey), more coherence (Nytheatre.com). Taken together, these outliers put a drag on the consensus opinion (NY Times, Village Voice, Time Out New York), which takes writer-performers Jenkins and Stanton's two-person farce on its own terms to report a successful entertainment. In an interesting reversal of biases, it is the "papers of record" that accept the goofball virtuosity for what it is while less-institutionalized voices apply higher standards to low comedy.
New York Times A
(Neil Genzlinger) Mr. Jenkins (“Mary Poppins,” “Big River”) and Mr. Stanton (“The Coast of Utopia”) have created an outlandish backstage story full of eccentric characters: actors, parents of actors, agents, other miscellaneous oddballs. And the joy of the piece is that the two men play the whole menagerie themselves, with nothing but a few chairs on the bare stage to help them or the audience ... This show would be all just very skilled gimmickry if not for the story, which is a well-turned yarn in its own right. By the time it’s over, you may feel as strong an urge as you are ever likely to feel actually to read “Ion” yourself.
The Village Voice A
(Michael Feingold) To gauge the degree of silliness involved, take that premise as the evening's most believable aspect. Jenkins is a capable comic actor; the lanky Stanton, who appears to have been assembled wholly from pipe cleaners, is a born clown. You probably won't need to take your mood elevators after seeing them.
Associated Press A
(Jennifer Farrar) Still one of the funniest plays-about-a-play that you'll see, "Love Child" has resurfaced at the off-Broadway New World Stages, following a successful New York premiere a year ago at Primary Stages. Two gifted actors, Daniel Jenkins and Robert Stanton, who also co-wrote the script, portray a dozen male and female characters interacting in swift rotation. But their combined talent transcends gimmickry, as they create multiple believable personalities despite a hectic pace, often-riotous physical comedy and dialogue peppered with puns and zingers.
Time Out New York A-
(Adam Feldman) In style, this adorably madcap show is something like an even more compressed version of Broadway’s The 39 Steps (The 12 Steps, maybe?), and most of the fun comes from watching Jenkins and Stanton switch madly among their characters ... Carl Forsman’s clean direction helps the audience keep all of these characters relatively straight. And even when the plotlines get blurry, Jenkins and Stanton are always fun to watch and envy: These are two talented bastards.
(David Gordon) It's no easy task to do what Jenkins and Stanton do. They run wild and are simply outrageous. Director Carl Forsman and choreographer Tracy Bersley guide them with a restrained hand, staying just the right drop out of their way. I don't know if the script has been altered, I seem to remember a slightly different opening and ending, though. But my favorite line, a joke at the expense of the Manhattan Theater Club, is still there. And it, along with almost every facial expression and action, brings down the house.
New York Daily News B
(Joe Dziemianowicz) The laughs don't land as often as they should, but the actors' nonstop enthusiasm spirits the show along.
Talkin' Broadway C+
(Matthew Murray) The story is so slim and, at least until its last 10 minutes, so disconnected from emotion that it needs some enlivening twist or, better yet, the fiercely uninhibited wildness demonstrated by something like Noises Off if it wants to compensate. Love Child doesn’t have that - all it has are Jenkins and Stanton. They’re more than good enough to carry the show most of the way there, and there’s a certain charm to be found in seeing them usher their labor of love further into the world. But they’re not so original or so exceptional that they can convince you you’re seeing something more substantial than a shtick-heavy acting showcase, if it’s as elaborate and energetic a one as you’re likely to find.
North Jersey.com D
(Robert Feldberg) "Love Child," which opened Saturday night at New World Stages, is a self-indulgence written and performed by Daniel Jenkins and Robert Stanton. The two men, who’ve previously demonstrated that they’re fine actors, have concocted a dubious showcase for themselves. In 90 minutes, they portray 20 characters, with near-zero impact ... "Love Child" often feels like an in-joke, one that doesn’t make you at all disappointed to be an outsider.
New York Times A 13; Village Voice A 13; Associated Press A 13; Time Out New York A- 12; Nytheatre.com B+ 11; New York Daily News B 10; Talkin' Broadway C+ 8; North Jersey D 4. TOTAL: 84/8 = 10.5 (B+)