‘Love Among the Ruins’ Casts a Pleasing Verdict

Kevin Taft reviews Love Among the Ruins, a pleasant throwback with strong stage work from JoBeth Williams and Peter Strauss.
User Rating: 7

A slight and charmingly dated play, “Love Among the Ruins” debuted on television as a TV movie in 1975, starring Laurence Olivier and Katherine Hepburn in the lead roles.

Now adapted for the theater, stage, television, and film, veterans JoBeth Williams (Poltergeist, The Big Chill) and Peter Strauss (Rich Man, Poor Man) bring the story to life on stage.

Written by James G. Hirsch and Robert A. Papazian based on the TV movie written by James Costigan, the plot concerns famous retired actress Jessica Medlicott (Williams), who is being sued for breach of contract by a former lover whom she promised to marry. She enlists the aid of the well-respected British lawyer Sir Arthur Granville Jones (Strauss) in order to have the whole thing thrown out.

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And while it might seem like an open-and-shut case (for the most part), the proceedings are complicated when Jones reveals a heartbreaking secret that ties him and Medlicott together. So, while he takes on her case, his personal ties might get in the way.

“Love Among the Ruins” is a fairly straightforward story with a chunk of comedy and a bit of melodrama thrown in. The case itself and the courtroom proceedings aren’t edge-of-your-seat compelling, and the story sort of goes where you expect. But it’s the actors that make the show entertaining.

Williams is adorable as the sassy aging actress who expects everything will go her way and she can be done with all the nonsense. Her antics in the courtroom are amusing, and her more serious moments are genuinely touching. She plays both so differently, but they are responses cut from the same cloth.

Strauss has the meatier role and dives in headfirst, not coming up for air until the final fade out. His stressed-out lawyer, with heartbreak in his past, offers a more complicated character than Medlicott, but she is not without her complexities either.

The staging for the show is beautiful, with Jones’ art-deco massive office stunning to look at. When the two leads fall into remembrances of the past, the lighting shifts, and we feel a romantic melancholy that works exquisitely.

The direction by Michael Arabian works best in these moments as well as the courtroom scenes; however, in the first act, we find that Medlicott’s character is repeatedly seated on a couch, keeping the action a bit claustrophobic.

The supporting cast is equally impressive, with each character diving into their roles with an absorbing energy.

“Love Among the Ruins” is a pleasant throwback to drawing-room comedy/dramas of yesterday. There is something familiar and comforting about the style of the play, and the performers bring that sense of familiarity and loving nostalgia along with it.

“Love Among the Ruins” plays through November 5th at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood.
For tickets and information, visit www.elportaltheatre.com

7
Good
Written by
Kevin is a long-time movie buff with a wide variety of tastes and fixations in the film world. He cried the moment Benji appeared onscreen in “Benji,” and it took him about four times to finally watch “The Exorcist” (at age 24) without passing out. “Star Wars: A New Hope” was the movie that changed everything and when his obsession with films and filmmaking began. A screenwriter himself (one long-ago horror script sale to New Line remains on a shelf), his first film "Two Tickets to Paradise" that he co-wrote premiered in June 2022 on Hallmark. He is currently working on another for the iconic brand.

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