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Love, Love, Love: A Play-by-Play Look at Mike Bartlett

Posted on: December 17th, 2016 by Roundabout


In under 10 years, Mike Bartlett has emerged as “one of our superstar playwrights,” according to the London Guardian. These are some of the milestone productions—from intimate chamber plays to ambitious epics—that brought his work to the attention of London and New York audiences.


“A mother denies her ex-husband access to their nine-year-old son when he brings the boy back from a parental outing with a damaged arm. Derided by his former wife, who questions his paternal rights, the man decides to take the law into his own hands... Bartlett, in his first play, pins down with horrific accuracy the way children become the victims of warring parents. But he never lets you settle into easy moral judgments.”  Michael Billington, The Guardian


“You may, according to taste, find the title a come-on or a turn-off. But, far from being a sensational shocker, Mike Bartlett's play is a sharp, witty study of a man helplessly torn between his longtime male partner and a loving woman. Bartlett's theme, in fact, is less tortured bisexuality than the paralysing indecision that stems from not knowing who one really is.”  Michael Billington, The Guardian.


“Mike Bartlett has made his mark as a laser-sharp minimalist. Now he's been encouraged to ‘think big’ … in a sprawling, three-and-a-quarter-hour, five-act epic that, while set mostly in the present, spans the late Sixties and 2525 as it examines how life is lived under the threat of climate change and impending catastrophe.” Paul Taylor, Independent.


“Compared with Bartlett’s big, baggy state of the nation dramas at the NT, this is a chamber piece, with just five characters. But it strikes me as Bartlett’s best work to date, with deeper characterisation, more personal themes, and scenes of extraordinary intensity and emotional truth shot through with dark humour.”  Charles Spencer, The Telegraph.


“Told in a brisk 55 minutes and without a trace of irony or a twisty turn ... Bartlett seizes upon essential truths. Perceptions matter. Be on the offensive. People are more savage than you can imagine. And although it has become a popular rallying point for sympathy, cries of bullying will get you nowhere in business — that’s the way it is.” Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News.


“How do you write a play about the British royal family without making its members seem risible, banal or irrelevant? … [Bartlett] imagines a shaky monarchy thrown into crisis after the death of Elizabeth…by employing the language of Shakespeare to transform his protagonists from cardboard figures of ridicule into full-blown characters of tragedy and pathos.”  Sarah Lyall, New York Times.


“The audience (is) divided into four discrete zones, each looking into a central glassed space in which an ordinary couple, trying to beat the housing crisis, has moved into a flat that could have come out of an Ikea catalogue or been computer-generated ... Mike Bartlett explores the numb thrills of video-game violence and the relationship between virtual assassinations and the extermination of real people in an ingeniously executed evening.”  Kate Kellaway, The Guardian.


Love, Love, Love is now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. Visit our website for tickets and more information.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Love Love Love, Upstage

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Director Michael Mayer

Director Michael Mayer

Ted Sod: Where were you born and educated?

Michael Mayer: I was educated at Washington, D.C. public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland; then the University of Wisconsin for three semesters. I transferred to NYU's grad acting program after leaving U of W. When I really couldn't get any paying acting work and I still wanted to make theatre, I decided to try my hand at directing and met with some early success directing showcases with friends. Mike D'anna and Stephen Perialas in junior high and high school were very influential, as were Ron Van Lieu and Olympia Dukakis at NYU. Also, Tony Kushner, who was a classmate and friend at NYU, had an enormous influence on me aesthetically and politically.

TS: For those who are new to Roundabout, will you talk a bit about your history with the company?

MM: My second Broadway show was a revival of A View from the Bridge at the Roundabout. Todd Haimes invited me to be a guest artist, and I directed several shows for him in the next few years, including a Broadway transfer of Side Man, A Lion in Winter, and Uncle Vanya.

TS: Why did you choose to direct Love, Love, Love?  

MM: I had seen Mike Bartlett’s play Cock and read King Charles III and really admired them both very much. I was blown away by the range of his skill. My agent sent me Love, Love, Love and suggested it might be my first new play to do after a spate of musicals. I was excited by the themes of the play, the characters, and the writing. I brought it to Todd to do a reading with Amy Ryan as Sandra, and right afterwards, Todd said let's do it. I was thrilled to come back after some time away with this work.

TS: How will you collaborate with playwright Mike Bartlett on the American premiere?

MM: Our collaboration has already begun with Mike and me discussing casting and design. He is also looking at some small but potentially important changes in the third act. I have met with him in London and will do so again before rehearsals commence and, of course, he will be with us for several periods during rehearsals and previews. He has a fairly new second child, so he won't be able to be with us full-time, but he's super easy to reach and very engaged in this process.

Richard Armitage, Amy Ryan and Alex Hurt (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Richard Armitage, Amy Ryan and Alex Hurt (Photo by Joan Marcus)

TS: What do you think Love, Love, Love is about?

MM: I think the play is about the giant disconnect between what we say and what we do; between who we think we are and who we really are; between what we believe our obligations are to ourselves and the world outside ourselves  be it our children, community, or planet.

TS: Does the play have personal resonance for you and, if so, how?

MM: Growing up in the D.C. area in the 1960s and watching how the shifting tides of American cultural and political behavior changed personal behavior has given me some insight into the family dynamic played out by Kenneth and Sandra and their children. I knew some people who copped to the fact that they went to rallies and sit-ins, etc., just to get laid or to score some weed.

TS: How do you understand the relationship between Sandra and Kenneth?

MM: Some people can maintain both personal responsibility and a socio/political ideology. In the case of Kenneth and Sandra, they see the freedom espoused in the late 1960s almost as a kind of fashion with which they can cloak themselves; it's a way to embrace the style without rigorously investigating the substance. Unlike some true revolutionaries, they were never dedicated to anything other than themselves and are incapable of self-critique.

TS: Can you share a bit about your process: How do you prepare for directing a play that spans the years 1967 through 2011? What research did you do about the world of the play?

MM: We will do a lot of table work and talk a lot about the specifics of the three moments in the play. I'm hoping that this American company will be able to draw relatable parallels with the English events depicted in the play. We will have lots of images and video to look at. The internet has made research like this available in ways I couldn't imagine when I was starting out.

TS: What did you look for in casting the actors? What traits did you need?

MM: We needed smart, emotionally available actors with the range to age several decades and have the right sense of humor. The play is very funny as well as ultimately painful. I'm at the point in my life where I only want to work with good, kind people who love working hard but also understand that some things are more important than making plays. Especially in this crazy time we're in. I think we have an extraordinary cast.

TS: How will the play manifest itself visually?

MM: There will be a different set for each of the acts  almost like traveling through a visual history of post-war theatre.

Ben Rosenfield, Zoe Kazan and Richard Armitage (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Ben Rosenfield, Zoe Kazan and Richard Armitage (Photo by Joan Marcus)

TS: How are you collaborating with your design team?

MM: We all talked about how Mike has created three different styles for each of the decades represented, so in addition to the clothes they wear and their hairstyles and the music, the physical environment should suggest a different moment in the kind of plays that were popular in that time.

TS: How important will the use of music be to the storytelling?

MM: The title of the play refers to the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love,” and music is used throughout as a way to know where we are time-wise, as well as a kind of subliminal running commentary.

TS: How do you keep yourself inspired as an artist?

MM: Of course I try to vary the kind of work I do, but I also do my best to collaborate with great people who are plugged into the world.

TS: What other projects are you working on besides Love, Love, Love?

MM: I'm developing a new musical with Peter Lerman, Lisa Kron and Dmitry Lipkin about the Russian Stilyagi in the 1950s, and I will direct Jake Gyllenhaal in a new production of Lanford Wilson’s Burn This on Broadway this spring. I will also be sending out the national tour of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

TS: Do you have any advice for young people who want to be directors?

MM: See everything you can. Read new plays and old plays. Make work wherever and whenever you can, but believe in the stories you tell. Don't spend your life on Facebook. Go to museums. Read the newspaper. Look around you. Meditate.


Love, Love, Love is now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. Visit our website for tickets and more information.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Love Love Love, Upstage


Love, Love, Love: Designer Statements

Posted on: December 10th, 2016 by Roundabout


Set models for three different acts of LOVE, LOVE, LOVE

Set models for three different acts of Love, Love, Love

The story of Love, Love, Love takes place in three different eras during three different acts.  It is partly about a generational war and deals very much with the time periods the characters are living in. The first act takes place in 1967, the second act is in 1990, and the third act is happening more or less now. When the play starts, you don’t necessarily know a lot about who the characters are -- so the set design has to create not only the living environments of these particular characters, but it also needs to give the audience a sense of when the action is happening and where. I have worked really hard on recreating the period details of each act.  For example, in the first act, which has the most pronounced difference in terms of current styles, people living in a flat in North London in the late 60s didn’t necessarily have central heating or hot water. I did a lot of research on the possible look of each setting by finding period photographs and looking at real estate ads. One of the challenges in designing this show is we need three different settings, and it is rather difficult to use a turntable in the Pels, so I kept most of the choices minimal. But, in fact, my main goal was trying to reflect what a set might look like for a play that was produced during the same time periods. So the first act evokes what a set for a Harold Pinter play might have been at that time, the second act evokes the look of an Alan Ayckbourn play, and the third act is the most contemporary and looks like a play written by Mike Bartlett. Michael Mayer, the director, and I have worked together before, and we have a shorthand. We both realized that the story is so strong in Mike’s play, that the challenge of the set design is to help tell the story and not get in the way of it.

Costume renderings for the character of "Sandra" in LOVE, LOVE, LOVE

Costume renderings for the character of "Sandra" in Love, Love, Love

Love, Love, Love is a play with three very distinctively different worlds. The first world is all about dreaming of the future. Using the backdrop of post war 1960s London, we will create a class structure, ranging from a poverty-stricken, dingy, worn down, lower-class worker to highly educated, fashionable, thriving Oxford University students. In this act, I am going to create the foundation for Mike Bartlett’s beautifully written, dream-filled characters so that they will have room to grow into the powerful, self-absorbed, painfully unaware people we see in Act III. The second act is all about sacrificing for money in 1990s London. We see these characters living the life they dreamed of, and paying the consequences. With money as the signifier for success, we need to see wealth all around this family. We have children in private school uniforms, men in expensive designer suits and women in powerful work attire. But with all of this success comes complications, which we will see. Set in 2011, the third world is about the conflict between generations; the older generation basking in their success and living the life of leisure, and a younger generation unable to succeed in the world they inherited. My job is to show the division between the two generations. The older generation with feel expensive and luxurious, while the younger generation will relate back to the poverty-stricken world we saw in Act I. We see how time and excess has treated this family, for better or for worse.

My first creative task as I envision my lighting design is to determine how I will craft the environment for the characters to inhabit as they tell the story of the playwright. In Love, Love, Love, I have the added challenge of creating three distinctive environments that span six decades. An enormously fun challenge. In creative meetings with Michael Mayer, he suggested each act should have a unique look, perhaps three different light plots. Design Notes: Three distinctive Acts. Three unique decades. The characters age dramatically throughout the play. The world that they inhabit should grow to reflect their age, taste, and attitude. Act 1, Summer of 1967, monochromatic, moody yet funny, shadows, simple, honest yet cheeky, television light; Act 2, Spring, 1990, bright, late 80s sitcom, soft, very pink, very rosy; Act 3, Summer 2011, severe and austere, sharp, edgy, high contrast, silvery, sleek, perfect, and beautiful.

As a sound designer, I never want to sonically distract listeners and take away from the storytelling; conceptually, I only want to add sound elements that are absolutely necessary to aid in telling the story. In Love, Love, Love, Mike Bartlett is very clear in his script which pieces of music he desires to set the time, place, and mood for each act, and thus part of my job can be somewhat utilitarian— facilitating the playwright’s wishes by providing the right edits to the music or sound element. Where I can better express my creativity is by manipulating how the audience hears those songs: obviously the music has to be localized to a practical record player or television on stage, and making that as realistic as possible is one of my goals. Then, as the music fades into or out of the audience listening area, I can have a little more fun in how that transition happens — I can be specific in where the sound appears to be coming from while subtly adjusting the dynamics of the music so that it can also feel as if the music is enveloping the audience.


Love, Love, Love is now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. Visit our website for tickets and more information.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Love Love Love, Upstage

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