Imagine, for a moment, always having to tell the truth. Always. To your friends, your parents, your boss, to, most inconveniently, that rather nice person you've just started dating. This rather harrowing prospect is the premise of I (Honestly) Love You, a comedy about a girl (Belle) and a boy (Lloyd) who are both constrained by a rare psychological condition (vitiositas veritas) that renders them incapable of lying.
One can imagine about a thousand iterations of this show where the humour gets old after five minutes. Think of it: girl asks boy how this dress makes her look, boy answers honestly. Boy asks girl if she thinks he's been developing a bit of a beer gut recently, girl answers honestly. You get the picture. Fortunately, I (Honestly) Love You avoids this. Instead, most of the humour comes from more subtle aspects. For example, Belle comments that Lloyd cannot seem to hold down a stable job and in response to her best friends' innocent ‘I wonder why?’ we see a small scene of Lloyd at work being rather-too-bluntly honest. Not very conducive to holding down a job, extremely conducive to comedy.
Then there's the slapstick that comes from four actors (Damon Lockwood, Paul Goddard, George Gayler, Talei Howell-Price) playing over a dozen parts, including parents, best friends, friends-of-friends, waiters and even inanimate objects such as tables, hat racks and, on one rather memorable occasion, pool balls. Although this character exchange can occasionally become confusing - for example, the point at which four people on stage are playing six characters - generally it adds to the comedy, rather than detracts from it.
When the show is at it’s funniest, however, are the moments when - despite the far-fetched plot - the show resembles life as we know it. These are the times when Lloyd adds a rather lame ‘sorry’ to the end of a reluctantly told truth; when Belle and Lloyd will twist up their faces as words they absolutely don't want to utter are flying out of their mouths; or the time when Lloyd literally shoves a fist in his mouth to avoid talking.
This verisimilitude is present in the connection we see between Lloyd and Belle as well. For every misjudged comment forced out of their mouths by the insidious vitiositas veritas there is a complementary moment of truth. There is the certainty of knowing that every compliment, every romantic phrase, every hyperbolic utterance of devotion is absolutely, completely and utterly sincere.
There is something very genuine in this premise, in the idea that in a serious relationship one has to be far more honest, far more raw, far more open than is comfortable. The payoff for this, of course, is finding someone who’s willing to embrace everything. Despite an occasional tendency toward bawdry humour, I (Honestly) Love You shows this process in a new, hilarious, and touching light. This is what differentiates the play from the 1,000 other sophomoric iterations it could have been and what makes it worth seeing. Honestly.