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Theatre / Luv

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A 1964 play written by Murray Schisgal, Luv is a farce/absurdist comedy of errors about three people, two college friends and the wife of one of them, who share stories of their miserable lives on top of a bridge. Harry has no one to love, and Milt tries to foist his wife Ellen on Harry, so Milt can run off with his mistress Linda.

The original Broadway production was directed by Mike Nichols and starred Alan Arkin as Harry, Eli Wallach as Milt, and Anne Jackson as Ellen. A film adaptation was released in 1967, directed by Clive Donner and starring Jack Lemmon as Harry, Peter Falk as Milt, and Elaine May as Ellen.


  • Abusive Parents: Milt, Harry and Ellen all had abusive childhoods.
  • Alliterative Name: Milt Manville.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Harry Berlin. He loves Ellen but Ellen suspects that he's really in love with Milt.
  • Attempted Rape: Ellen had this happen to her when she was fifteen.
  • Black Comedy: A play that's rife with Hilariously Abusive Childhood, Suicide as Comedy, failed murder attempts and characters constantly falling off the bridge, whether as attempted murder or by accident.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Ellen can't see without her glasses, if we take Milt's word for it.
  • Broken Pedestal: Milt becomes disillusioned with Linda after he marries her, realizing she's a Lazy Bum who never works for herself. Ellen's marriage to Harry is also a failure; Harry becomes a Lazy Bum himself.
  • Collapsed Mid-Speech: Harry is in the middle of explaining to Milt that his body suddenly goes numb... when his body suddenly goes numb.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Ellen has a fantastic knowledge but feels like she could be satisfied as just a wife.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Harry approaches it when a dog urinates on him.
  • The Ghost: Linda is never seen.
  • Heroic BSoD: All three of the main characters go through this.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Some of Milt and Harry's horrific childhood memories are pretty funny.
  • Interrupted Suicide: First Harry is stopped from jumping off a bridge by Milt, then Harry stops Milt from stabbing himself, and finally Harry stops Ellen from stabbing herself. All three are reminded that love is worth living for.
  • In-Series Nickname: Harry used to be called "Dostoyevsky" in class.
  • Large Ham: Harry, as played by Alan Arkin, seems to love screaming all the time. Actually, in his scenes with Eli Wallach as Milt, they engage in Ham-to-Ham Combat.
  • Manchild: Harry regresses back to his childhood when he marries Ellen. He wears a paper bag on his head and Ellen has to take care of him all the time.
  • Men Don't Cry: Averted. In the 1965 Broadway production, Milt and Harry both sob and weep openly when they vent to each other how miserable they both are.
  • Not So Stoic: Ellen seems level headed but soon we learn that her life is just as hard as Milt and Harry's.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Harry notes that Milt is always so level-headed and optimistic, so he finds Milt's sudden depression shocking.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Literally with Ellen and Harry.
  • Stepford Smiler: Milt admits this about himself.
    Milt: Look at me. I look happy, don't I? I look as if I have everything in the world to live for. Well, I don't. I'm miserable, positively miserable.
  • Suicide as Comedy: Harry tries to jump off the bridge at the end. However, he survives. Harry earlier enters his suicidal state when a dog urinates on him.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Milt to an extent. Eventually he decides that he never loved Linda and rides off on a motorbike with Ellen.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: First Milt to Harry, then Harry to Milt, then Harry to Ellen.