According to the classic definition, "amateur" denotes one who's motivated by love. The cast of Hale Center Theatre's production fit this classic definition, which is part of the reason their shows are so popular. The amateur actors transmit their love to the audience, who perhaps think to themselves "Doesn't acting look like fun! I bet I could do that."
With a show like "Love and Kisses," making it look like fun is a cinch because the script is full of humor, warmth and well set up punchlines. It's like an old sitcom with the audience providing the laugh track. The characters get themselves in hot water but resolve it by the end of the play.Proud parents react the best way they know how when their 18-year-old son announces - on the way to his high school graduation - that he just got married at noon that day. While the young newlyweds set up house in the young man's bedroom (which has a bunkbed), his older sister plans her own elaborate wedding, complete with numerous showers and a honeymoon in Hawaii.
The domestic hilarity that ensues makes "Love and Kisses" a treat for the whole family. Dave Phillips plays the sarcastic patriarch like the father on "Happy Days." He's especially funny when he tries to instruct his son on how to behave on his wedding night. The extreme awkwardness is accentuated by his son Buzzy's (George Mulvey) carefully timed interjections of "what do you mean?"
Mulvey's idealism and callowness are real, and his relationship with his beloved, (Johanna Droubay) sweet and refreshing. Both Droubay and Mulvey exude innocence with their movements and facial expressions.
The other young couple, played by Shawnda Ludlow and Justin Bruse seem much older but no wiser. Bruse's showoff streak amusingly annoys his future father-in-law, and Ludlow is appropriately shallow and fussy.
As the mother, Linda Garay-Bramwell anchors the humorous household with the appropriate mixture of weakness and strength. The funniest moments are between she and Phillips as they not-so- subtely display their annoyance at each other and the difficult situation. Garay-Bramwell's anger at her husband and his sarcastic rejoinders are priceless.
At times, people who know family life can portray it more effectively than those who merely know acting. The "real-life experience" of these actors makes the production's minor "amateurish" moments incidental and forgivable.