After seeing Linda Manning’s Perfect Love you’ll never be able to think of Robert Redford in the same way again. The iconic film star’s countenance literally lords over the proceedings. He is there hanging on the wall as both object of desire and unattainable symbol. He represents the central theme of Manning’s outstanding solo show. Redford is an emotional and conceptual perfection that in truth may or may not even exist but is well worth reflecting upon.
The story of Linda Manning’s debut one-woman performance is hers and hers alone to tell. It is a personally honest, deeply reflective, funny and touching self-assessment. Since childhood Manning has been seeking that perfect love that everyone else seems to be talking about and finding for themselves. Robert Redford is the first embodiment of that flawless dream but, like most men in Manning’s early life, he soon proves to be as thin as the paper he’s printed on. She endures a there and then absent father, a predatory step father, and older men who only want one thing all the while wondering how much is she to blame for her own dilemmas.
Manning is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter that’s been looking to find herself in her writing. For the most part, her previous works have been an exploration and debunking of her own feminine mystique through characters she’s created. This time she points her pen squarely at herself and in doing so authors a tight, well-written script. Nothing is off limits here as she explores love, lust, desire, betrayal, and brutality. She relishes in the telling of her tale. Her words are courageous and her performance is revelatory and joyous to watch. She seeks and we gladly follow through both the good and the bad until she eventually discovers that what she’s endured has forged her into the exceptional woman and artist she’s become.
Perfect Love was part of the United Solo Festival which utilized the various theatrical venues of New York’s Theatre Row. The festival runs for two months and is featuring over one hundred and thirty local and international productions. On its ninth anniversary, having presented almost eight hundred solo performances since its inception, the festival consists of a variety of shows including musicals and dramas, improv, stand-up, dance, puppetry and storytelling. This festival provided the unique opportunity for Manning and her production team to debut her experimental work.
Gretchen Cryer, well known to the world of theatre for many accomplishments, including having written the book and lyrics and starring in the legendary musical I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It On The Road, is the director here. Cryer and Manning found each other through the Dramatists Guild with Cryer mentoring Manning to shape the Perfect Love script and the actor’s performance. Cryer has done an exceptional job in letting Manning fly and speak for herself. There’s a musical element to the production that also makes a significant contribution. Jono Hill provides the original music and sound design that serves to accent the structure of the script and also goes a long way to supporting the tension in its more serious moments.
Perfect Love is a show that needs room to breathe and grow. Subsequent productions will see to that. Manning has tested the waters of the solo stage and has proven herself more than capable of diving deeper into her psyche and her craft. This is a show that has had an exceptional launch and its future will be decidedly brighter with each incarnation.
More information about Linda Manning can be found at LindasManning.com.
410 W 42nd St
September 13 - November 18, 2018
Edward Medina is an active member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) and welcomes comments at EdwardMedinaAuthor@gmail.com.