[title of show] certainly gets high marks for original premise. Two gay buddies (not lovers) motivated by an impending theatre festival and a three week deadline, resolve to rise to the challenge of creating a new musical. However far evolved, on the last day they will drop the manuscript into an envelope and send it to the contest. So they set to work. Casually at first. But gradually they kick into gear. And that’s the content of [title of show]. It’s about two friends (Jeff and Hunter) collaborating on a musical, starting from scratch. It’s a musical about writing a musical. Just like Sunday in the Park with George, it’s about the creative process. The ambivalence, the self-deprecation, the stalling, the futility, the elation. [title of show] covers the baby steps that lead to a full-on production and beyond, and the emotional toll that such an endeavor takes on its participants.
As near as I can recall [title of show] doesn’t actually show Jeff composing music and lyrics or Hunter writing the book As we might expect, the script scores a number of gags from its key device : Jeff and Hunter’s life, as they write the musical, is the musical. The two women (Heidi and Susan) they hire to sing, the awkward period of getting acquainted and working through the peccadilloes, this too is text. [title of show] is sharp in the sense that it journals the foibles and quirks, it never pretends that it’s always smooth sailing or that they’ve ever “arrived.” It debunks the fantasies of overnight success while never succumbing to despondency.
[title of show] has so much going for it, I’m not quite sure why it (at least the performance I saw) never seemed to leave the ground. The characters are tremendously likable. Flawed but not unpleasant. Chipper but not perky. Spirited but not trying to blow sunshine up your ass. The highs never seemed to peak or the lows plummet. It’s not necessary to label a show as comedy or drama (many of the best seem to overlap categories) but for me [title of show] never felt very self-possessed. As if it were groping for tone. There were numerous moments when the plot really took us to unexpected places, an exuberant kiss that fails to connect, a crack out of turn that‘s funny because it‘s so inappropriate. And this kind of audacity is beyond commendable. It’s the difference between brilliance and pandering. [title of show] is not afraid to challenge us, but perhaps it’s still working on that elusive, crucial chemistry.
When you consider shows that do so much with so little, minimal sets, characters, costumes, like The Fantasticks!, Waiting for Godot, The Zoo Story, I do! I do!, [title of show] would appear to belong to this category though it may have yet to hit its stride. It never seemed content to go with obvious choices or take refuge in whimsical insouciance. The cast (Marianne Galloway, Alexander Ross, Tricia Ponsford) was genuine and spontaneous, and you haven’t lived till you see Chad Peterson work his Blank Piece of Paper shtick. I got the impression that maybe [title of show] never spends quite enough time in one instance to reveal the crucial wisdom it seeks, but gifted performers like this always make for energetic diversion.
Theatre Three presents [title of show] playing April 22nd through May 23rd. 2800 Routh Street, Suite 168, Dallas, Texas 75201. 214-871-3300. www.theatre3dallas.com