note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
Melinda Lopez’ intense rock-drama about a music man from GARY (playing thru March 16 at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre) is the very antithesis of the Meredith Wilson musical with the “Gary, Indiana” song in it. (Come to think of it, Indiana has inspired even Brits like the Beegees. Go figure!) This particular musician’s experience of America’s heartland is filled with toxic waste: polluted rivers and yellow, smoke-stained skies. Even the families in Lopez’ GARY are toxic. The Chamber of Commerce will not be pleased.
Rock ‘n rollers will be enamored of the “story” behind the music. Who hasn’t wondered where these bizarre songs all come from? Lopez structures GARY so that the drama wraps around the songs, giving us a rare glimpse into what drives a lyric.
Theater folk will see a tragic story (about the sins of the father being visited on his sons) punctuated by accelerated, grinding, loud punk rock. Lopez collaborated with Rick Sims for the show’s music: a blend of slashing vocals fed by a pulsing, relentless 1-2-3-4 percussion-stoked rhythm.
Director M. Bevin O’Gara has assembled a stellar cast of actors who can sing and play! Elise Manning has to be one of the most versatile newcomers on the scene. She gives a heartbreaking performance as an abused teen and she supplies the pounding, hammering percussion which brings focus to the rhythm—and her pain. Nael Nacer plays lead guitar and, in the story, writes the searing lyrics born of despair and survival. Lopez creates an enduring bond for him and his sister, in their search for truth. Nacer sounds like a little like Neil Young and delivers hard-edged, negative vocals (“Face Down in Gary”) with a tinge of tenderness.
Adrianne Krstansky makes their mother a tough cookie trying all the wrong ways to keep it together. She gets a lovely country western lament which Krstansky nails perfectly. Molly Schreiber provides sweet harmony with Nacer and plays his doubting but loving girlfriend. Karl Baker Olson makes the little brother an odd misfit (but Lopez doesn’t give us enough psychological grist for the dramatic mill, to explain her revelations at play’s end). Talk about miracles! Music director Todd Gordon rocks for the professional sound he gets from this make-believe band!