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UNMADE BED

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at the Celebration Theatre

The joy of love, the loss of it, the regret over the wrong step taken in search of it, or the pain of having chosen the wrong person to love—these have been the subject matter of poets since man started writing down his thoughts, or singing them. This song cycle, which deals with the themes of loneliness and love—or just lust— takes the familiar concepts for a gay ride down the avenues of romance in a contemporary world. It could, if it were not an infringement, be titled Aspects of Love.

Librettist Mark Campbell has enlisted 18 composers from several different disciplines to write accompaniment for his tender, funny, sentimental, sometimes cutting, sometimes racy lyrics. All the songs are similar in tone, if not in their angle, as sung by a very personable Dave Barrus (alternating with Frank Lawson), accompanied by virtuoso pianist and cute mugger Jake Anthony; an accomplished Stephen Green on cello, who has his moment on stage that precedes a song called "He Plays the Cello"; and Dylan Campbell on percussion. Under Patrick Pearson's direction, the musicians are amusing collaborators with Barrus, adding considerably to the fun. Also assisting in the thematic plot is a centrally located double bed, attired in perfection similar to the well-dressed proscenium hung with a hundred dress shirts (Kurt Boetcher, scenic design).

The songs with a satirical edge seem most appealing to the audience because they tend to be quirkily insightful into the gay lifestyle, not just the dreamy romanticism of another sleepless night without a date. "The Other Other Woman" (composer Jake Heggie), laments that not only does the new boyfriend have a regular boyfriend, he has another lover; in "Admission" (composer Joseph Thalken), the singer admits he would have preferred one of his lovers had not taken his clothes off; "Exit Right" (Steven Lutvak) is a hilarious physicalization of a warning never to date an actor. These, and others, take the sad edge of loneliness or regret off a short evening that hymns the pleasures, and disasters, of a love that is very hard to find and almost impossible to maintain.

Presented by and at the Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. Jun. 6-Aug. 10. (323) 957-1884. www.celebrationtheatre.tix.com.

Reviewed by Madeleine Shaner

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