They say that less is more, and it has never been more true that with [Title of Show] that opened this past Tuesday. Yet, something was missing from the show that would have made it unforgettable.
[Title of Show] is a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical. And it’s a true story! I would recommend this show to anyone; whether you’re a musical fan or not, it’s definitely one not to miss. It is, as one actor told me, a ‘hilariganza’.
Clocked at 90 minutes, this short, tight piece of theatre will give a much needed study break over this weekend.
All the actors delivered strong performances and had the lungs to match. Genny Whalen (Heidi) had a particularly amazing voice. Dumaresq de Pencier (Hunter) brought a freshness to the role. While he was slightly awkward in his movement, it wasn’t distracting at all. Instead, he made it part of his character. He had a grounded take to his to hunter. This was refreshing in a show that could have been lost in ‘silliness’. But Sean Young (Jeff) and Stephanie Haller (Susan) stole the show with the energy, character and joie-de-vivre they brought to every moment on stage.
It’s a simple show— only four chairs and a piano— and maybe it’s here that director Jasmine Hare got a little too confident. While the show is ‘simple’ it is by no means easy. In fact, some of the simplest shows are the ones that have the most work put into them. It’s an art to make something look simple. I would argue that [Title of Show] is a complicated because it only has four chairs. They director and the actors needed to bring the same amount of attention to detail as they would have Phantom of the Opera.
The show was also low on energy. This made it drag. It’s not a long show, but because the cues weren’t picked up, and because the actors didn’t maintain energy throughout, they struggled in keeping up the pace. One example of this were the answering machine interludes. While these recorded moments were particularly well acted, they were not used as transition pieces. The actor would only move the set and re-enter when the messages were done playing. They could have really picked up the pace of the play if they had placed their chairs during the blackout while the message was playing, and then began the scene the second it was done. The energy of the show was also low. All the actors were strong, but they seemed tired by the end. It’s a demanding play, but there are ways of maintaining energy that were not employed.
Finally, I think the play was disappointing thematically. It’s a musical about a musical about a musical. It doesn’t get more meta than that. And yet the actors never interacted with the audience besides the few times it was scripted. There is such an opportunity to add another layer to an already hilarious script by breaking the fourth wall. For instance—when describing the hot guy in the red shirt, they could have pointed to someone in the audience. To have a play that is about breaking the fourth wall, and then not to break it, is to miss the point of the play. In [Title of Show], the actors aren’t acting, they’re “playing me” as Heidi says. I think the actors could have played themselves a little more in this production. They tried to do this once when they referred to the character Jeff (Sean Young) as Sean. But his had the opposite effect. Instead of being self-aware actors, we as an audience were more aware that they were acting (it was also an in-joke lost on most of the audience). The funny thing about [Title of Show] is that they aren’t acting. More than any other musical, there is a chance to get really creative here. In fact, they might even incorporate lines from this very review in the review scene of the play. Now that would be meta.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the show. But it was missing something vital a thing that makes a show like this one last, and not just some cute idea that is a little too donuts for dinner (play reference!). They brought the show so far. They had a great cast, great acting and great singing in a play that is especially challenging vocally. But they failed to keep the energy up. They missed a key theme of the play. But more importantly, they missed the chance to play themselves in a way that is rarely seen on stage. Hopefully in the final shows the actors and director will find moments to get creative with their performance to add another layer of self representation to this extremely funny show.