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Colleen Sharkey McElligott, Joe Dallacqua and Nick Baldasare in “Love in the Age of Clamor” by Bill Cook.

If you’ve heard of A&B Productions, you may think the Columbus-based theater company has seemingly materialized out of thin air. That’s because it has. “Love in an Age of Clamor” writer Bill Cook created A&B for the purposes of staging his first show in Columbus with plans to use the company to stage more of his upcoming works. (The Van Fleet Theatre at the Columbus Performing Arts Center is currently hosting “Clamor” through May 26.)

For what I can only assume was a favor, Joe Bishara has put the entire weight of CATCO/Phoenix behind “Clamor,” directing, casting and offering it space at the center. It’s definitely commendable that they’re supporting local talent, but it begs the question, why Cook? There are plenty of local playwrights they could support. But that’s another story for another time. (I could simply call Bishara and ask—yes, I got it like that—but working three jobs and being lazy has its consequences.)

All sleuthing aside, “Clamor” is actually pretty amazing. After five years of critiquing Columbus theater, you come to expect a certain quality from certain theater companies, but A&B offered a blank slate. To amaze or to crash and burn, was the question. And they amazed.

A humanities professor at Columbus State Community College, Cook’s writing is swift, witty and revealing; and the show’s three actors were phenomenal. That’s enough to consider it a hit inColumbus. It’s too bad the opening night house was pretty bare; A&B may be suffering from lack of name recognition.

Nick Baldasare anchors the show as Lawrence Bodkin, a man who spends much of his time pontificating through a midlife crisis. His wife suddenly leaves him for a hunky personal trainer and he finds himself on a weird, and often times hilarious, dreamlike journey through self discovery. Colleen Sharkey McElligott and Joe Dallacqua are dizzying with talent as they quick-change through several characters. Seriously. Every time you blink they’re in a new costume.

The disillusion of middle-aged love is as clichéd and overdone as love stories, but Cook puts a spin on the topic; and the actors commitment to their many characters and the absurdity of their situations makes it all the more worthwhile.

Bishara leaves the stage is pretty bare with only a few rotating chairs and other amenities (suitcase, cell phone) to provide setting, forcing the audience to focus on the actors and Cook’s words. In an age of flashy attention deficits, three actors and a script are a lot to depend on to adequately entertain, but “Clamor” delivers.

So head over the CPAC and give A&B a chance. With the Bishara and CATCO/Phoenix seal of approval, you can’t go wrong.

“Love in an Age of Clamor” runs May 11-26 in the Van Fleet Theatre at the Columbus Performing Arts Center,549 Franklin Ave.,Columbus. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students. For more information visit  Check out a video preview of the show below.


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