Theatre Mirror Reviews - "THings That Matter"

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note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Larry Stark

"Things That Matter"

Book, Music & Lyrics by Steve Faria
Directed by Marc Clopton & Steve Faria

Lighting Design by James Atkins
Set Design by Steve Faria
Sound Design by Conal Ryan
Stage Manager Holly Little

Piano..........................Adam Feldman
Bass...........................Sandy Martin
Drums..........................Keith Auguri
Trumpet/Flugel Horn/Conductor...Steve Faria

Mike......Blake Siskavich
Jeff........Brian Abascal
Tim..........Jeff DePaoli
Mrs. B. ...Mary O'Donnell
Emily.......Juliet Nelson
Rita.......Jenny Richards

A new company north of Boston (Tide Taken Productions, Newburyport) is doing an out-of-town try-out of the new musical "Things That Matter" created by Steve Faria. It's "old-fashioned" in that it actually has a real Book (based on Faria's original play) and that the music has a jazz-pop flavor and real emotional content. The plot introduces three stuck-in-a-rut couples trying to reach for, and deal with, change.

The show opens in the apartment shared by two early-20s best-friends --- Jeff (an anti-commitment slob) and Mike --- who have settled into what could be love relationships if any of them would nudge things along a little. Their younger buddy Tim is closet-gay, living with Mom, but trying to "pass" in order to keep his friends. By the end of the show, each is changed and, probably, much happier outside their macho ruts.

The earliest and easiest change comes when Emily (Juliet Nelson) suggests that, rather than move to a bigger place with Jeff and Tim, Mike (Blake Siskavich) stay in the apartment and accept Her as his "roommate". Things like this go better when you sing, as their duet "Good for Each Other" demonstrates. Mike capitulates early in Act I ("Something's Gonna Change").

Of course, the course of true love rattles Jeff (Brian Abascal) whose theme-song is "Never Say I Love You" --- despite the counter-arguments ("I Still Care") of his five-year girl-friend Rita (Jenney Richards).

Basically, Act I sets up the situation, but it really catches fire in Act II, as people collide moving out and moving in, and helping out is Tim's Mom (Mary O'Donnell), a widow ready to be become again more a loved woman than merely a mother. Their song is "Just Like You," after Tim (Jeff DePaoli) has defined his own discomforts about her demands to "Behave." In coming out to his buddies, Tim has the solid description of his predicament in "Just Outside The Door."

The guys here come off as settled, dumb, and happy --- unreconstructed frat-boys --- while it's mainly the Girls (Including Mrs. B!) who know that "Friendship is A Messy Thing" yet who act toward changes while hoping that friendships will remain unbroken. And, is it any wonder that despite some real fireworks throughout Act II the final song of "Things That Matter" happens to be "Coming Through"?

The new musical is now in consultation with its Audiences while Creator Steve Faria and Director Marc Clopton listen and tweak. Whether a short stop in Boston will precede a run in The Big Apple is still to be decided.

Break a leg all!

( a k a larry stark )

"Things That Matter" (2 - 19 March)
@ Firehouse Center for The Arts, Market Square, NEWBURYPORT MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide