by Chrysa Smith

Where do I begin, to tell the story of how great a love can be?

It was 1970. And one of the most romantic tragedies of all times hit the big screen. Love Story, based on the book by Erich Segal, brought young love to life amidst class differences, family struggles and illness: aka reality. It starred the young Ali MacGraw as Jennifer Cavilleri –an Italian, Catholic, working-class girl from Radcliffe and Ryan O’Neill as the affluent prepster from Harvard –Oliver Barrett IV.

It’s now onstage. And it features Cavilleri as the outspoken, in-your-face, emotional gal who suffers no fools. Barrett is the somewhat cocky, jock-wasp emotionally severed from his family of origin. When the two meet, fun wordplay sparks a flame and the two quickly move toward a serious relationship. Giving up an opportunity to study in Paris, Jenny allows Ollie to focus on law school first, assuming that once a lawyer, she could return to persue her love of music. Only illness steps in and Jenny is diagnosed with Leukemia—a sure death sentence.

Nice and light it is not. A nice love story it is. And I’ll tell you why.

First of all, it brings me back—back to a very young time in my history, but old enough to remember the impact that Love Story had as a movie. And young enough to think how beautiful Ali MacGrraw was with her long, parted dark hair. And back to my first love, about a dozen years later. It’s always nice to go back—back to good times.

But it’s more than that. It not only took me back—but took me back to more innocent times. I guess everyone over 50 says that at some point, but I was so cognizant of the lack of cell phones or social media in the story. She waited for him; him for her. It was the days when you waited for the call—and the call—on a land line, meant so much more, because there was real effort—real longing. More innocent times were my more innocent times—-a treasure to be held within a life.

And innocent times meant there was no end. No divorce, separation, bad break ups. Sure, there was the tragedy of her illness, but that’s not a conscious decision on the part of anyone to leave. It has the sticking stuff—till death do us part—only death came surely too soon.

It’s playing until October 21st  at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia, and it is a musical. The only disappointment I had is with the lack of the original theme being included in the score. It had a miniscule few moments tinkled on the piano, but it wasn’t a feature song. Darn licensing!! So much for the innocence! Back to reality!

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