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Paulanne Simmons

[title of show] Is and Adolescent Adventure

[title of show]
Directed by Michael Berresse
Vineyard Theatre
108 East 15th St. off Union Square
Opened Feb. 26, 2006
Wed.-Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 5 and 9 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. Mon. 8 p.m.
$55 (212) 353-0303 or www.vineyardtheatre.org
Closes March 25, 2006
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons March 11, 2006

Somewhere at the beginning of [title of show] Hunter, one of the co-creators of this musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical, calls his work "self-indulgent, self-referential bullshit." It could be that the real Hunter (Hunter Bell, who wrote the book for [title of show]) hoped the line might inoculate this too cute musical from possible criticism. Or it could be that he recognized the play for what it is. Either way, truer words were never spoken.

The music and lyrics to this paean to pop culture were written by Jeff Bowen, who plays Hunter's partner in crime, Jeff. The two men are assisted by two singer/actors, Heidi (Heidi Blickenstaff) and Susan (Susan Blackwell), who really come into their own when they take advantage of Hunter and Jeff's leaving the stage to belt out "Secondary Characters."

Blackwell and Blickenstaff's duet is sexy, mature and funny. It makes one wish the childish and silly Bell and Bowen would stay off stage more often.

But for the most part this is Jeff (Bowen) and Hunter's (Bell) show. They are young, ambitious, insecure and gay. And when they are not writing they seem to spend a great deal of time thinking about Broadway shows that came before (inside jokes abound), surfing the Internet and, in Hunter's case, self-gratification and pornography.

Certainly [title of show] has several enjoyable songs – "Die Vampire Die!" "Nine People's Favorite Thing." But the songs seem not so much to advance or enhance the plot as to fill in the gaps where there is no plot.

Instead of writing a show that entails characters, structure and plot development, Jeff and Hunter decide their musical will be about themselves writing the musical, so all they have to do is faithfully record their conversations while they write a score of songs loosely connected by the theme of the trials and tribulations of writing a musical.

Bell and Bowen try to create some suspense over whether or not the show will be selected for a theater festival, but it's pretty much a foregone conclusion this will happen. After all, how else will [title of show] fill an hour and a half running time?

Director and choreographer Michael Berresse tries to add sparkle to the production with witty staging (intermittent phone calls from friends rejecting the opportunity to appear in the play are cleverly managed) that imitates Broadway in song and dance. But despite his best efforts [title of show] is missing more than a title.


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