Susan Luzzaro 9:45 p.m., June 18
Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, California, "There is no there, there" — or was that what Oakland said of Stein?
There isn't much to Gregg Coffin's Five Course Love either. The intermissionless bauble's allegedly about kinds of love, but most of the time can't take its subject, or itself, seriously.
The musical takes place in five different restaurants: Texas barbecue; a trattoria; a German speiseplatz ("playground," a la Cabaret); a cantina; and a Star Lite Diner. The participants want a "minimum of no and a whole lotta yes." But the various trysts fall apart, often in ways unpleasant.
Clusters of songs emerge from each locale. Ethnic numbers are so clichéd they verge on stereotype — and would even more if Coffin wasn't spoofing the musical styles (the trattoria, for example, is a mock-opera about Godfather-like thugs vying for the same moll). Only one song, "The Blue Flame," lasts beyond the singing.
Coffin wrote the music, lyrics, and the book. The latter has lengthy scenes, and many of the songs exist solely for the cast to make costume changes.
The performers make the difference at North Coast Rep. Three people play 15 characters in 90 minutes. Five Course Love is a bauble (a trifle) but not a bagatelle (easily done).
It's a three-ring circus. Kevin B. McGlynn plays the male leads (from an egomaniacal Don Juan to a lonesome dude just looking for love); Omri Schein adds humor to a series of one-note waiters; and Kristen Mengelkoch gets a workout and a half, physically and vocally, as five very different women, among them a Barbie looking for Ken, a dominatrix, and a do-wopping young woman who, like Don Quixote, has read too many romances.
All perform with aplomb on Marty Burnett's sleek, solitary table set, though often in semi-darkness, thanks to a murky lighting design and lazy follow spots.