What is love? To some, it might be a passionate affair in Paris. To others, it’s the very definition of one’s relationship with their furry companion. Perhaps, quite honestly, it’s just a catchy Haddaway tune that had you responding “Baby, don’t hurt me.” Or maybe, love is the last morsel of strength you have to walk out on a life unworthy of living. In Mirrorbox Theatre’s Iowa premiere of Brad Ross (music) and Michael Cooper (lyrics)’s Love & Other Destinations, viewers have the pleasure of experiencing just about all of these variations and more through a quirky and revolutionary two-person musical.
Directed by Cavan Hallman (with musical direction by Janelle Lauer), this entertaining theatrical revue stars Angela Billman and Anthony Hendricks as they embody cheating partners, new parents, opposites with the hots for one another and recovering former lovers — just a few of the renditions in this 10-act production. Through a live-streamed broadcast, Billman and Hendricks give hearty and heartfelt performances from a stage in the digital theatre studio at Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids. They are physically distanced, but a green screen and some technical support allow the viewers a sense of normalcy, albeit glitchy at times as they navigate these uncharted waters.
Yet, with Cooper’s relatable and sympathetic lyrics, 60 minutes fly by as one is immersed in the storytelling of the human condition. Very self-aware, the first number tells us to “Leave your expectations at the door.” With the premise set that we won’t be enjoying Shakespearian bellows from a balcony or witnessing any beheadings, the audience is able to take a breath and snuggle in as they travel the world, and the heart, with two possible strangers embodying multiple perspectives of some of the happiest and most terrifying moments in one’s life.
The story opens with a faraway, black and white shot of Jefferson High School, leading the audience through the building into an empty theater. It’s as if the camera is ushering viewers into the velvet seats. Not too long after, we meet our minstrels of the evening, Billman and Hendricks, and the rest is a blur of French coffee shops, blue skies, Central Park and a lone house in the woods. With the green screen being the biggest personality on stage, there are very few props beyond a notable champagne goblet, a Kay Jewelers cameo, a wedding veil and a dog’s top hat — Billman’s fuchsia blazer and Hendrick’s cozy cardigan slowly begin to steal the show.
Between songs, the production throws viewers back into the world of grayscale as footage of rehearsals and crew members greet us to the sound of the musical’s gentle score, helping us transition into the next love story. Several acts also include scenes where still images take up the entire screen, grounding the viewer in the situation at hand or working as a time progression while the characters develop over the course of one song. With soaring ballads from Hendricks and a dynamic, compelling performance from Billman, Love & Other Destinations is the musical you didn’t know you needed, but the one you deserve — because sometimes we all need a little reminder of the good, some solidarity in the bad, and a hug (or bottle of wine) for the ugly.
Love & Other Destinations is available for ticketed viewing (tickets are $20) and will be live streamed on Mirrorbox Theatre’s Facebook page March 25-28 at 7 p.m. each night. To aid the viewing experience, it’s key to note that although each act is performed by either Billman or Hendricks or both, their songs and stories are not necessarily reflective of a single couple’s life together. Each is possessed of its own autonomy, performed as stand-alone segments of varying types and stages of love.