Tough love

My Thing of Love heroically takes on the aftermath of infidelity

The role of neurotic, paranoid Elly is one with which an actress could really chew the furniture, but Akin keeps her rage just below the surface and opts for a kind of weary bitterness that can turn threatening in an instant, like when she catches Jack in bed with his lover. Sitting beside the mattress in a huge chair, eating dry breakfast cereal out of the box, she casually informs both flustered sinners, "I might have a gun, you know." That threat carries more dramatic weight than a real gun-waving standoff would.

As the busty, black-clad Kelly, Melissa de Leon suggests the intelligent side of ditziness. The actress possesses a rare ability--to find the sympathetic side of a basically unsympathetic character and bring it to the foreground. The wandering, free-associative riffs that her dialogue consists of suggest an individual who's less air-headed than self-involved, and de Leon's graceful diction and fluid stage movements milk every ounce of charming obliviousness from her words.

My Thing of Love is a script that will rise or fall with the level of rapport among the cast, and New Theatre Company delivers the goods in a production for which the hard-won laughs rise from an undercurrent of profound sadness. Gersten's turbo-charged dialogue nicely explores the mysterious pain of love, but is smart enough not to try to define it.

My Thing of Love runs through December 16 at the Swiss Avenue Theater. Call 520-

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