Friday, January 25, 2008

Theatre Droppings: New Plays

In a full house the other night, I caught Charter Theatre's latest offering: F.U. It's an over-the-top farce about a poor schnook whose wife is sleeping around and whose career is on the skids. It's a funny, fast-paced play, brand new (as all Charter productions are). Unfortunately for actor Michael Skinner, his role is wholly reactive, and he's not given much range by the playwright. Our attention soon drifts to the trio surrounding Our Hero, and what a talented group of nutcases they are. Allyson Currin's buxom turn as the cheating wife is a hoot, and Sarah Melinda offers a bunch of performances which are off the charts (that Chinese CEO is truly wicked).

As always, my buddy Ray Ficca takes his roles and infuses them with creative physicality, and comes up a winner.

Glory Days, the new musical being given a very generous World Premiere at Signature, has now entered local theatrical lore. If the experience of the two creators of this piece, both in their early 20s, is any indication, all young composers and lyricists should beat down the door of artistic director Eric Schaeffer to get a listen. Schaeffer reportedly fell in love with a few of the songs, then workshopped the show, and has now produced a full-scale production. I caught the show last week, and I have to confess I don't see the big attraction. I am not a great judge of music, goodness knows, but many of this show's numbers sound quite interchangeable to me. And the story, which concerns four high school friends who reunite less than a year after graduation, just did not resonate with this old bird. 19 year-old boys astonished at how substantially their lives have changed in one year?

The show is getting some very positive buzz around town, including a love letter from The Post. I tend to agree more with the Citypaper's review, which was more impressed with the fact that these guys somehow landed on the Signature main stage than with anything in the musical itself.

I had a primary problem with the lack of, you know, a plot. The central action of the show (the guys plan a prank on the football team which rejected them) was replaced mid-stream by the coming out of one of the boys. None of this had much resonance for me.

Schaeffer is getting all sorts of kudos for producing this brand new musical by these very young firebrands, and he deserves a lot of credit for doing so. But the cynic within me is thinking about how cheap this show was to produce (brand new writers, only four actors, only a handful of musicians, one set [bleachers], etc), and I wonder how much those considerations factored into Signature's decision to produce this show. They are heading into what must be a hugely expensive spring, with their Kander and Ebb festival to include three full scale musicals, starring Broadway luminaries and Tony winners. Schaeffer is surely wise to precede his festival with this bare bones production whose premiere will nonetheless attract lots of attention.

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