Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A New Brain"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Larry Stark

"A New Brain"

by William Finn
Directed by James Tallach
Music Director Jennifer Honen Galea

Set Design by James Tallach, Robert Case
Executive Producer Christopher Teague
Lighting Design by John MacKenzie
Artistic Director Robert Case
Light Board Operators Ginny Yang, Robert Case
Dramaturg Todd Kreidler
Casting by Harriet Bass and Laura Stanczyk
Production Stage Manager Marion Friedman
Stage Manager Sarah Powell

ORCHESTRA
Keyboard 1.......Jennifer Honen Galea
Keyboard 2..............Beth Stafford
Keyboard 3.............Michael Joseph
Bass Guitar...Dirk Hillyer/Nick Aparo
Percussion.....Don Holm/Jeremy Nimmer

Gordon Michael Schwinn...Jim Fitzpatrick
A Homeless Lady......Kendra Kachadoorian
Rhoda......................Peri Chouteau
Waitress/Nancy D. ........Anne Velthouse
Mr. Bungee.....................Gary Ryan
The Doctor...................Robert Case
Richard........................Joe Lanza
The Minister.............Aaron Velthouse
Roger Delli-Bovi..........Nicholas Nunez
Mimi Schwinn..............Mary O'Donnell

William Finn's "A New Brain" is a very personal musical comedy, since he "did the research" on bleeding in his own brain, endured nice and vicious nurses, a blandly indifferent doctor, a bumbling minister offering his Christian Bible to a Jewish patient, and lived to make a musical out of his brush with death. The circle-dances of friends and family and hospital denizens mirror the show's fresh lyrics, bubbly music and --- in this Metro Stage production --- an eagerly energetic cast offering, everywhere, cutely crafted tiny details exploding silently all over the stage.

The hero hopes to pen an epic some day, but writes songs for a kiddie-tv show headed by an irascible frog (Gary Ryan) --- and the night we went Beverly Creasey and I sat on either side of an innocent composer (who had never seen the show) who writes the songs for a children's theatre; the howls of recognition must have intoxicated the cast!

Then there's big-voiced Kendra Kachadoorian panhandling in the aisles as a relentlessly honest homeless lady, lightning costume-changes (some on stage), a sort of MRI-gavotte, and the hero's lover (Joe Lanza) who'd rather be sailing --- or showering with his beloved to celebrate a successful operation! (Or is that, like other things in the show, just a fantasy of an old brain on the fritz?)

The hero's agent (Peri Chouteau) and his mother (Mary O'Donnell) are his understanding feminine help-meets. During a several-part choral number late in the show, the two of them can be seen, lunching, conversing, and bonding over to stage-left. And are that vicious nurse and the doctor falling in love over their surgical equipment?

It's neat details like these --- and was it Finn, Stage Director James Tallach, or the actors themselves who put them in? --- that make this medical send-up sing. And, conducting a five-piece totally electronic band, Music Director Jennifer Honen Galea demonstrates how to make an electric piano cook!

But this is a two-wekend show.
You know what to do, don't you?

Love,
===Anon.


"A New Brain" (15 - 23 September)
METRO STAGE COMPANY
Cambridge YMCA Family Theatre, 820 Massachusetts Avenue, CAMBRIDGE, MA
1 (617) 524-5013

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