Long Story Short - 59E59 Theatre B - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - **** (out of 5 stars)
By Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda, based on the play An Infinite Ache by David Schulner, Directed by Kent Nicholson
Runs until Mar. 29th 2015
Cake and Dirt - Tarragon Theatre - Toronto, ON - ** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Daniel MacIvor, Directed by Amiel Gladstone
Runs until Apr. 12th 2015
Verité - Lincoln Center Theater's Claire Tow Theater - Off-Broadway - New York City, NY - **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Written by Nick Jones, Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel
Runs until Mar. 15th 2015
Long Story Short is a simple little musical about a the long story of a couple from first sort-of-date to beyond, told in a compact 95 minutes. It's a short musical but it covers a lot of ground, going from what seems like a simple, cute little meet-cute romance to a far more intense and emotionally compelling journey of this couple. Think of it as The Last 50 Years, without the time bending twist. Much of the story is a typical straight couple relationship tropes, but with lots of enjoyable songs from Brandon Milburn and Valerie Vigoda, and a tight two-person cast that gives the always enjoyable Bryce Ryness (Hair) and the wonderful Pearl Sun (If/Then) a showcase for their vocals and charms.
What's revolutionary in the musical is that is isn't all that revolutionary, but yet presents an interracial relationship as a matter-of-fact thing and goes from there, presenting it without controversy. It slyly uses the small differencing details in a Chinese-American girl being with a Jewish guy in specific moments in the story but overall, it's just about these two people who fall in love and their struggles in keeping the relationship alive through all the years. It's also finally a specifically written female Asian lead part in a musical that doesn't depend on her being a subservient character in any way, and it's a welcome role in the musical canon.
Sun and Ryness sing Milburn and Vigoda's songs beautifully in this great showcase for a musical writing team I look forward to hearing from more. On a clever efficient set by David L. Arsenault, the action moves around a single bedroom that portrays different housing through the years with some clever minor changes in a set that doesn't actually change. It's an efficient and tight show that shows so much promise for all involved and I can easily see the show being produced regionally and through communities with it's simplistic requirements which will be a great welcome to the musical theatre canon since I'm already itching to go back to see this again.
When a birthday party goes awry because of lies and differing opinions on urban planning, a fractured family becomes even more fractured in Daniel MacIvor's newest play Cake and Dirt. It's nice to see something with a contemporary setting with supposedly relatable and interesting issues about neighbours, family, money, class, and the local park space, but MacIvor buries it amongst a yelling privileged family whose hostility toward each other marks the degradation fallen upon the upper crust of Toronto.
While cast members like Maria Vacratis (as Nana, the help), Bethany Jillard (as troubled daughter Riley), Laara Sadiq (as the new wife to the birthday boy), and Patrick Kwok-Choon (as the neighbour and local city councillor who's been the subject of the discussions at the party) manage to enliven the party as much as possible with grounded performances and some quippy zingers, it all gets bogged down watching privileged people be annoying, in the ultimate case of "#whitepeopleproblems" and as MacIvor hammers in that these people are so spoiled that they want their cake and to not even eat it too (as every character keeps turning down the cake offered). The satire gets buried under all the yelling from the main drunk couple and with shuffling of chronology to play with our understanding of the events of this terrible birthday party, things don't quite come together until the final scenes when Kwok-Choon and Jillard are able to bring some reflection and understanding (and realistic connection) to the story.
When a young mother living with her husband in her sister-in-law's place finally gets an offer from a mysterious publishing company, she seems suspicious of their book offer that sounds too-good-to-be-true. Eventually, the money is too much to turn down and Jo decides to write her memoir but things get twisted from then, when she suspects the publishers are purposely affecting her life to create exciting moments to write. Verité is a fun interesting concept, with the opportunity to be a great satire and surreal play on the meta factor of the stories we tell, what constitutes as reality and how far will we go for creative pursuits.
Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect, The Help) is wonderfully grounded and lovely as Jo, and her possible mysterious interloper played by Eben Moss-Bachrach gives a dashing counter to Jo's writing woes. But despite some deliciously campy publishers (Matt McGrath and Robert Sella), the play never quotes hits all its satirical and surrealistic marks and the post-set up seems particularly muddled and misses the potential the play seems to promise.
Photo of Long Story Short by Matthew Murphy
Photo of Cake and Dirt by Jeremie Warshafsky
Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com
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