Like all good theatre, [title of show] represents a confluence of several things. First, it’s theatre-about-theatre. Self-referential and insider-y, it cracks open a window on all the hope, insecurity and high drama that creating a show entails. The late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s were fertile ground for this type of script. Everything from Michael Frayn’s Noises Off, to Mamet’s Life in the Theatre to the late Michael Litfin’s Places is informed by this construct. For those of us who are part of some extended theatre family, this is theatre about people we know and love. [title of show] – and by extension, this production of [title of show] – could have never gotten off the ground if this didn’t get this much right.
The second part of this confluence is that [title of show], like Superior Donuts, earlier this year, is part of a much needed, post-1990’s antidote to irony. In his signal, albeit somewhat overwritten volume “When Surface was Depth” Michael Bracewell observes that the ironists of the early 1990’s “honed the pursuit of Style Watching to such a degree that their commentaries became increasingly reliant on the instant translation of trends and phenomena into a code of social satires. This was a mixture of wit and anthropology that would end up dissolving in the acid bath of its own chemistry.” Thank God we got over that! It’s little wonder that revivals became the meat-and-potatoes of 1990’s theatre, because new theatre, especially theatre-about-theatre, had a hard time surviving in Bracewell’s acid bath. One suspects that songs like “Die Vampire, Die! would have lasted about two minutes. This show isn’t about how smart you are, or how smart you think you are, or how smart you think everyone else thinks you are, although you’re really smart enough to know you’re not that smart, it’s (critic stops, gasps for breath), it’s about entertainment – and bringing ourselves back to ourselves, which is what the best of theatre is all about.
[title of show] opened last week at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts. Bringing a shot of high energy, open-heart, optimism, [title of show] documents its own history, from a script about a script written in three weeks for submission to the 2004 New York Musical Theatre Festival through its opening at the Vineyard Theatre, to its 2008 opening at the Lyceum on Broadway.
Lest that sound too dry, this is an incredibly funny show whose very gay sensibility offers something for everyone. The sheer physicality of Ian Leonard (Jeff) and Jamison Stern (Hunter) is fascinating to watch, with Laura Jordan whose character (Susan) moves like a woman whose been in heels too long, and Farah Alvin (Heidi) thrown in as contrasting colors to the palate. A high-powered cast that brings more than a dollop of their own Broadway experiences, these people do more with four random chairs than most of us could do with an entire household of furniture. However, the buzz in the lobby afterwards, was reserved for piano player and musical director Billy Liberatore, who provided accompaniment throughout the show. Liberatore’s contributions to the community over the past decades are huge – and it’s always heartening to see him.
The optimism and energy of [title of show] end the 2010-2011 TheatreWorks season on a high note. We’ll get a chance to see Ian Leonard again in Fly by Night, a comedy that just might make us nostalgic for those old Con Ed blackouts and brownouts.
[title of show]
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
4 out of 5 stars
Book by Hunter Bell
Music & Lyrics by Jeff Bowen
June 1 – June 26
Photo Credit: Mark Kitaoka