Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Song of Songs"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth


"Song of Songs"

A Review by Sheila Barth

Inspired by the classically beautiful poetry of the Hebrew Old Testament’s book, “Song of Songs,” which scholars believe was scribed by King Solomon, director-writer-educator, Jason Slavick, Liars & Believers’ (formerly the Performance LAB) artistic director, and composer Nathan Leigh have written a lovely, 70-minute, one-act indie rock musical, “Song of Songs, a LoveRomp”. The production made its world premiere recently at the Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre in the South End and closed June 18. Slavick, who also wrote hit punk cabaret musical, “Le Cabaret Grimm,” penned the “Song of Songs’” book with the ensemble.

From the outset, a moderator explains the significance of the Biblical text, “Song of Songs,” and its interpretations - whether it was meant to represent love between a man and a woman, man’s love for God, or, conversely, God’s love for his people. The song is oftentimes read or sung at weddings, adding romantic poignancy on the altar or bimah.

Woven by Slavick and Lee’s music and lyrics, in the same style as Billy Joel and Twyla Tharp’s meteorically successful “Moving Out,” the story explores love in the modern world and contains brief romantic vignettes of love between a man and a woman, and two women. Five talented actors perform this fantasy play, through 12 songs and interpretive dance, comedic interludes, audience interaction, a harmless looking, Sesame Street-type puppet, and a more dramatic, madonna-masked vision, draped in lavender silk. Four musicians centrally located on a raised platform provide impressive accompaniment.

The action focuses around dancer Rachel Bertone, (who choreographed “Seussical” and “Animal Crackers” recently).

A teen-ager shyly experiencing her first love, Rosie (Bertone) is in her bedroom, talking on the phone, gossiping and wistfully discussing somebody she likes, when she receives an LP album, entitled “Song of Songs”. As she dreamily listens to the album, each song springs to life around her, sweeping her into the action, pulling at her, tugging at her, dancing around her, as the characters exhibit various forms of love, jealousy, loss, inspiration, and compassion.

The mood shifts from an angry “The Jealousy Tango” to a wistful “Where is My Love;” from a naughty “Carbunkle’s Song,” to a reverential “Kiss Me” (Yishakeni).

Austin Auh, who stole hearts with his breathtaking Boston performances in “Poe: a fevered dream,” and “Le Cabaret Grimm,” is Bertone’s shy love interest. He sings and dances throughout this love romp with youthful exuberance and dramatic interpretation.

New York-based actress-artist, Esme Allen; Dylan McGill, recent Boston Conservatory graduate; and California transplant, actor-musician Hayley Jane switch clothes and roles in rapid succession, maintaining the pace and continuity.

Allen aptly switches from lesbian lover to a woman lamenting the loss of her male lover, as she crisscrosses with McGill, who also cries out, wondering why his love left him. The two search up and down the aisles, among the audience and across the stage, adding comic relief.

The play ends with the two young lovers shyly approaching each other, and walking away, hand-in-hand, filled with the sweet innocence of young love.

"Song of Songs: A LoveRomp" (2 - 18 June)
LIARS & BELIEVERS
@ Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA
1(617-615-9742

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