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Paulanne Simmons

"Red Eye of Love"


Red Eye of Love
Directed by Directed Ted Sperling
Amas Musical Theatre at Dicapo Opera Theatre
184 East 76th Street At Lexington Avenue
Opened Sept. 4, 2014
Wednesday at 3pm & 8pm, Thursday & Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm & 8pm and Sunday at 3pm
Tickets: $25 to $55
Closing Sept. 28, 2014
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Sept. 3, 2014

L to R: Alli Mauzey, Josh Grisett. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Arnold Wienstein’s satirical comedy, "Red Eye of Love," opened at The Living Theater in 1961, had a long run and earned John Wulp an Obie for direction. By the 1980s a musical adaptation was already in the works. Even though Weinstein died in 2005, the project continued, with John Wulp continuing work on the book and lyrics and eventually, Sam Davis onboard as composer.

The musical premiered in North Haven, Maine before opening at the O'Neill Center in 2007. And now, at last, "Red Eye of Love" has opened off-Broadway, produced by Amas Musical Theater and directed by Ted Sperling. After all this time and effort, one could certainly expect something much better.

L to R: Daniel May, Daniel Lynn Evans, Tracie Franklin and Sam Tanabe. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Red Eye of Love focuses on a love triangle between the avaricious O.O. Martinas (Kevin Pariseau), the owner of an all-meat department store; Wilmer Flange (Josh Grisetti), a romantic dreamer who imagines he can make a living through the manufacture of specialty dolls; and Selma Chargesse (Alli Mauzey), a charming young lady who is torn between idealistic love and a practical alliance.

The first act concentrates mostly on the characters and their struggles, but the second act abounds with historical references: the Great Depression, World War II and the post-war years. This disconnect makes it seem almost as if the two acts are parts of different shows tied together by a similar sense of the absurd.

L to R: Katie Hagen, Tracie Franklin, Katie Chung, Kevin Pariseau, Sam Tanabe, Daniel May and Daniel Lynn Evan. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Indeed, we are never led to believe these are real people with real emotions. Nor do we ever have the slightest desire to take them seriously. This might have worked if anything that happens on stage were truly amusing. Or if the music was interesting or unique in any way. Or if there were any production numbers that ever captured our fancy.

Alli Mauzey and Kevin Pariseau (background). Photo by Carol Rosegg

For some reason, Sperling opted for two pianos instead of a piano with a band. As a result the music sounds even thinner and more monotonous than if it had a more robust treatment. And it is not enriched with powerful (or even always on key) voices.

A few of the ensemble numbers manage to wake up the a somnolent audience. And there’s plenty of enthusiasm in the cast. But it’s the kind of enthusiasm one finds in a high school play. Or perhaps the band playing on the Titanic.


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