“Love Sucks” — A Fast Ride on a Breakable Heart

Love has been pushing us around for a long time. The Greeks knew that not even gods or goddesses could withstand the boy with the bow and arrow.

True Focus Theater, with just two full-length shows under their belt, has decided to take on Cupid and his antics. But Love Sucks, their third show, isn’t a blues singer’s jaded complaint.

It’s a light-hearted, even-handed — and sometimes sharply moving — tour through love’s infinite varieties. (Its full title might be imagined as Love Sucks … Us All In.)

(photo: Vanessa Cate)

Tucker Matthews, Natalie Hyde, Mark Nager, Cheryl Doyle, Dorian MacNeil, Tasha Porche (photo: Vanessa Cate)

Led by Vanessa Cate and her close collaborators Natalie Hyde and Angie Hoover, the True Focus troupe has a distinct approach to theatre. They weave together bits of story, vignettes, poetry, song and dance — and come out with a unified whole.

Love Sucks is a prime example, and it shows how much the company has matured in just a couple of years.

After a cutely choreographed kaleidoscope of couplings, using 10 actors, Tucker Matthews gets uncoupled and delivers an almost wordless, writhing embodiment of loss.  Then comes a trio dance unsparingly dramatizing love’s wanderings. Then a direct poetic assault (written by co-director Hoover) on our culture’s confusions about polyamory.

And on it spins, the hour’s 21 episodes including a delightful brief farce (recast by Cate from her 50-Hour DriveBy playlet), a monolog exploring postcoital tristesse, solo songs, a couple’s comic S&M discovery, a chaotic blind date, laments for loneliness, and a wiggy chanteuse (Cate, with keyboardist/backup singer Evan Hillhouse) twisting a misogynist rap rant into a torch song.

A few special mentions are in order.  Hillhouse, as accompanist and performer (and songwriter), is a welcome addition to the company.  Hyde, as dancer and choreographer, has been steadily pushing her (and her dancers’) limits into more and more breathtaking work.  And Cate, Hoover and their cohort have evolved a recognizable “True Focus style.”

Love Sucks is a fast ride on a variety of vehicles, constantly changing focus and direction.  But it’s governed by a consistent point of view, shared by the artists — an honesty that acknowledges vulnerability and pain, which in turn makes possible both wry humor and gentle acceptance.  Indeed, True Focus looks at love with a sharp wit, generosity, and precision that calls to mind  the young Shakespeare.

Keep your eye on these folks.
Love Sucks, written by the company, directed by Vanessa Cate and Angie Hoover.
Presented by True Focus Theater and Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, at the ZJU Theatre, 4850 N. Lankershim Blvd.

Sundays at 7:30 pm, through August 30th.

Tickets: <lovesucks.brownpapertickets.com>

The Company:  Vanessa Cate, Cheryl Doyle, Anna Gion, Evan Hillhouse, Angie Hoover, Natalie Hyde, Tyler Koster, Mariana Leite, Dorian MacNeil, Tucker Matthews, Mark Nager and Tasha Porche.