By Michael Block
In Jesse LaVercombe's hyper ambitious solo work Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender, the audience is thrust into the future to watch the lives of three relatives unravel. Billy H. Tender is a former teen pop star turned kinky folk singer-songwriter. He makes a triumphant return at the dismay of his fans that don't like this new version. His mother is trying to keep her life afloat as she works as a phone sex operator. And this leaves Hal, the youngest son and brother alone. Metaphorically and physically. LaVercombe's visceral play is unique in the sense of approach. LaVercombe has versatility as a performer. Through his speech, musicality, and movement, he showcased his vast skills. Yet when it came to character, he didn't necessarily create distinct characters in the common sense of a solo play. Rather than gender-bending, for example, he focused more on the cadence and pitch. It was a subtle choice that didn't necessarily hinder the storytelling. Where Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender could be improved is perhaps recanting the mystery of the evening solely through the eyes of Hal, LaVercombe's strongest and most captivating character. The action of Billy and Stella directly affect Hal and may not need to be seen. It would help to hone in and streamline the piece.
Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender thrives on precision. It's so tightly directed by Adam Lazarus that one miscue has the power to derail everything. Lazarus took LaVercombe's script and elevated the material in a manner some solo works never achieve. By physically tightening the play, an immediate intimacy confined LaVercombe in the best way possible. The hanging fabric panels forced him into periodic stillness that brought out his words. The sound by Adrian Shepherd was sharp and redolent.
Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender is a play geared best for the millennial mind frame. It's a play for taste. If the text isn't to your liking, Jesse LaVercombe's performance must be.