Wednesday, July 26, 2006

[title of post]

Finally saw [title of show] yesterday evening at the Vineyard. It's a musical about writing a musical—specifically, writing the musical the audience is in the process of watching—and it stars the two actual authors, Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen, playing themselves. The meta experience is taken to its logical extremes in often very funny ways: Susan Blackwell orders takeout during a brainstorming session but gives a fake address so the audience won't know where the author lives once the show is performed; lines of dialogue loop into themselves as if in a hall of mirrors. Backed by a lone piano, the songs are reasonably clever, and the game cast (the aforementioned three plus Heidi Blickenstaff) manages to make the constant self-referencing endearing rather than irritating. Special mention to Blackwell, half of the Wondertwins and a marvelous comedienne whose humor is half deadpan, half neurotic.

While its kind of mise en abime isn't new, [title of show] is different from, say, Urinetown, in that it doesn't confuse irony and cynicism: Bell and Bowen wrote a love letter to the musical theater (it's larded with references to actors and shows), whereas Urinetown's Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis behaved like wannabe hipsters trying to look cooler than the field they've chosen to evolve in—it seems particularly shallow to deride musicals while cashing in with one at the same time.

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