The absurdity inside many of Broadway comedies, a world where anything can happen, comes through in full force this season in the new Living on Love, playing at the Longacre Theater. As opera star Raquel De Angelis, Renée Fleming belts it out while letting it all hang out as a diva trying to keep her marriage, career, and life from falling apart. Her on-again, off-again affection for her husband, played by Douglas Sills, culminates in a heartwarming way. All of the shenanigans are forgiven and left behind, just like Broadway prescribes.
The show, written by Joe DiPietro and directed by Kathleen Marshall, shines in the short second act when all of the cast members pair off in the appropriate and rightful way. It's during the first act that there's an overwhelming sense of disorder, confusion, and mayhem that gets in the way at times. Fleming's always seems to know when to entertain the audience with a couple of operatic notes to keep them from fading. The play is at its best when the two main characters are alone to discuss their past in a nostalgic way, not to have to justify themselves to outsiders.
At the top. we're introduced to Robert Samson (Jerry O'Connell) who is clumsily assigned to help the "Maestro" write his autobiography. This is a hopeless task, and one that is particularly poorly-suited for Samson who is spineless and meek. His counterpart, a female ghostwriter played by Anna Chlumsky, adds another layer of complexity to the plot as the two main characters pursue new love interests to attract jealousy and attention from the other.
Throughout, there's a lot more to look at and listen to that's beautiful. The set, the costumes, the comic relief, and the music, it all stands out from some of the more forgettable lines and moments. DiPietro fills the room with joy and fun, and plenty of wonderful distractions. At the end of the day, though, the two main characters just want to carry on as they always have and not be told what to do. It's difficult for anyone, even a director, to chime in and make their orders stick.