Monday, November 9, 2009

Barely Believable

There are a lot of things I could be posting on: I could add my voice to the chorus of blog postings on the early closing of Brighton Beach Memoirs (it is a sad statement about how the business has changed and how it hasn't, and shocking that a play can close that fast after getting positive reviews) or I could write about seeing the last performance of Animal Crackers at the Goodman (Short version--completely hilarious. More to come eventually.) But I was distressed by this piece of news on Playbill, and felt I needed to comment on it immediately.

For those who didn't follow the link, it states that the appropriately named Martian Productions, a production and management group, has announced four productions it is aiming for Broadway in the next few years. I've never heard of one (a new rock musical called The Thief), and two sound promising (A show for young audiences called Wanda's World was well-received Off-Broadway, and Marc Camoletti's sex farce Don't Dress For Dinner was a huge hit in Chicago). But the first one on the list shocked me: Damon Intrabartolo and John Hartmere's pop opera bare.

I was shocked for a very simple reason: I saw this show at the Bailiwick a few seasons back, and it's terrible. The production was decent--well-acted and sung, though the rave scene was hilariously stilted--but the show itself is just not good.

I suppose I should alert you to spoilers in the plot summary below, but it's predictable enough that you'll probably see them coming scenes in advance. Still, fair warning.

The plot focuses on a closeted gay couple at a fancy catholic school, dealing with external and internalized homophobia--causing one to impregnate a girl. Angst ensues, as well as scheming, fights, drugs, an abortion, and a suicide onstage during a performance of Romeo and Juliet. And yes, every possible plot point and character is tied in to poor Shakespeare's play.

Now I'm all for angsty gay teens--hell, I was one not too long ago. I'm likely to be kindly disposed to a play about how very very hard it is to be a gay teen, especially if you put hot boys making out in the show--and, this being a show produced at Bailiwick, they did.

But I do have some standards. Power-pop music, for instance, is doubtless to the taste of many (after all, it is called popular music). I am not one of those people. More to the point, the songs in bare tend towards lyrical generalities, which is a serious flaw in their storytelling ability. Especially since bare (are you tired of the lowercase yet?) has no book whatsoever. The whole story is told through songs, and those songs are frustratingly low on clarity and specificity.

But worse than all this is the script's manipulative air of tragedy. It's like sitting for two hours while people yell about how very sorry for them you should feel. Of course, it would be hard to care otherwise--the plot is too unbelievable to get the interest of an audience on its own.

So good luck to Martian Productions--and anyone still risking doing new shows on Broadway. But if they want to produce a show about young people, they should really choose another one.


Mr. K said...

I'm not sure if power-pop is the right term to use to describe bare (though, given that I've never seen it, it could be alright).

Power-pop is not synonymous with pop music, actually. It usually takes a stripped-down version of modern pop music and amps up the sweetness and energy. Good examples are Big Star and Material Issue, while more mainstream versions might be Cheap Trick or Matthew Sweet.

Zev Valancy said...

Then I used the wrong term--I more meant a score of pop music, highly dependent on power ballads. Not so much sweetness as bombast. Duly noted.

Monica said...

I had just heard about the show and a couple of the numbers in one of my classes before I read that bit of news. (Let's just say that the instructor had a different opinion of the show than you do.) I wonder if the planned Broadway production is possibly riding on the coattails of Spring Awakening's success. (Although, that show had a book.)

Personally, this isn't a show that I think I would care for; I wasn't too thrilled by the two numbers I heard. Maybe it will do well on Broadway because I honestly can think of a lot of people who would go nuts to see it. (Most of them are straight girls.) And they would rush out and go see it simply because it has angst and love and betrayal and drugs and maybe cute guys and a rather contrived plot.

And, yes, the fact that the title is in lowercase letters annoys me quite a bit.