Review | ‘Air Love n’ Love’ at Santa Barbara’s Marjorie Luke Theater

Plenty of Romance in New Dramedy From Claudia McGarry

The cast of Air Love ’n Love, with writer/director Claudia McGarry (top row, second from left). | Credit: Courtesy

A father/daughter-run Airbnb property serves as the backdrop for Air Love n’ Love, the new romantic dramedy from local playwright Claudia McGarry, a prolific writer (this is her sixth original play since April 2020) and obviously a big fan of romantic comedy movies, as am I. With references to some of my personal favorite films namechecked by multiple characters — Moonstruck, Sleepless in Seattle, and My Fair Lady among them — romance is in the air throughout this play, with (spoiler alert for newbies to the romantic genre) four sets of characters coupling up at the end (including the narrator), which is presumably a nod to Pride and Prejudice, and perhaps even Shakespeare. 

Although the tonal mix of serious drama — two of the couples lost very young children in terrible tragedies, one of the couples is torn apart by war in Afghanistan, one of the characters is scammed by a fake Airbnb host posing on Craigslist — with romantic comedy and joking dialogue doesn’t always work, there’s a lot to like about Air Love n’ Love.

For me the standout was Claire Waterhouse as Elena, who gives an entirely natural and believable performance as a young graduate student who runs the Airbnb with her artist father (Peter Rojas) and moderates the ex-spousal tensions with her somewhat hippy-dippy mother (Dalina Klan), who is in the process of opening her own business, an empathy massage parlor. The family comedy and drama soon morph into romantic drama and tensions when Afghanistan refugee Bojana (Bojana Hill) shows up thinking she has rented and paid for the Airbnb for two months but in reality has been scammed out of the rent by an opportunistic con artist. Rather than leave her to her own devices, Elena’s father is so charmed by her beauty and affected by her vulnerability that he decides to let Bojana stay in the house, rather than in the already-rented rental unit.

The entire cast (which includes Shelly Best, Robert Castillo, Vlad Hurtado, and Phil Moreno) is involved as multiple romances bloom and complications ensue, including unexpected May-December scenarios in two different directions. And ultimately, as promised, one Airbnb changes the lives of all the characters in some very different, and somewhat surprising, directions. 

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