One of the most charming love stories I have ever witnessed

Review by Paul Nelson

THE opening play of the new season at the Chelsea Theatre, The Coffee Lovers Guide to America, turns out to be one of the most charming love stories I have ever witnessed in the theatre.

So simple is the story that you cannot believe that the ending will be as comforting as it is, there must be something that will separate the lovers surely?

No, though you are tortured conjecturing about what the next scene will reveal, or not. That is the secret of the play's success.

A couple meet in Florida, one on business from England, a right Yorkshire forthright ordinary person, the other a worldly-wise American swinger.

At first you think these two cannot possibly have anything in common, both reveal they are committed to their partners, both are obviously attracted to each other, but because of said commitments, both are somewhat reticent.

The ensuing comedy is absolutely delightful and in less than an hour and a half, with sparkling dialogue, lightning sketches reveal greater depths of emotion that many another playwright would have taken hours to explain and stage.

All of which makes author Jonathan Hall a serious contender for some sort of award. The play is a delight, it is compact, and presents the human condition in a blinding white light.

I had better confess now that the pair of star-crossed lovers are both male and the two actors faced with presenting this condition in a sympathetic light make no bones about it, carry the play with conviction, and give every penny's worth for the price of the ticket.
As a duo, it is impossible to separate the two for acting honours. The somewhat gauche, absolutely sincere English north countryman Joe (Daniel Rabin) is perfectly matched by the tanned American, seen-it-all surfer Gregg (Trevor White).

Watching and disbelieving that these two will fall in love with each other, and particularly in various Starbucks coffee shops across America, proves to be an absolutely riveting experience.

The play has a charming setting which unfortunately because of the number of scene changes relies on the actors to re-jig the furniture and props, which I always dislike, but a well thought through series of accompanying recorded music plants director Nigel Townsend firmly in charge and worthy of attention.

I could find nothing wrong with this play and its worth is so apparent that it could just as well be played by two women, or a man and a woman.

Romantic comedies are rare. I can't remember that last one I witnessed. If nothing else, that makes it noteworthy.

A note for the author, and you will have to see the play to know what I am talking about: Many years ago I was at school in Shipley, I was never asked if I went all the way to Skipton.

Don't miss this one.

The Coffee Lovers Guide To America by Jonathan Hall, Directed by Nigel Townsend, Designer Ben Dickens, Lighting Design James Whiteside. WITH: Daniel Rabin (Joe), Trevor White (Gregg). Produced by The Chelsea Theatre and Y Touring at The Chelsea Theatre, Worlds End Place, Kings Road, London SW10. Tickets 020 7352 1967.

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