Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Falsettos"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


"Falsettos"

Music, Lyrics and Book
by William Finn and James Lapine

Directed by Russel R. Greene
Musical Direction by Thomas C. Lissey

Set and Scenic Design by Amy Stahl
Lighting Design by Nancy Brockway
Stage Manager Sarah Kary
Produced by Paul O'Shaughnessy & Patty Brown

The Teenie Tiny Band
Piano............................Thomas C. Lissey
Woodwinds...........................Karen Dickson
Synthesizer............................Mario Cruz
Percussion..........................Zachary Hardy

Jason..............................Jonathan Silver
Whizzer................................Peter Adams
Mendel.................................David Berti
Marvin..........................Donnie Baillargeon
Trina...............................Maria Wardwell
Dr. Charlotte......................Candace Hopkins
Cordelia..............................Isabel Davis


The program for the Footlight Club's production of "Falsettos" says "Starring:" and then simply lists all seven members of the cast, in alphabetical order. And that is perfectly accurate, so far as it goes, because everyone connected with the show, on stage or backstage, should consider themselves stars of an outstanding production.

William Finn and James Lapine have pointedly set their act one in 1979, and their second in 1981. And their characters are members of the typical American nuclear-family in those years: a son, his mother, his divorced father, his father's gay lover, and the family psychiatrist who makes house calls and marries mom. Typical, right? As typical as the lesbian couple from next door who don't show up till act two.

The joy of this production is in its honesty. There's no apology, and no agenda. Everyone on that stage is a human being feeling, hearing, living intensely emotional upheavals as honestly as they know how, and coping with the consequences. The words "homosexual" and "queer" show up, and when they do they are harshly wounding --- but the word used most often, by everyone and pretty much about everyone, is "love". And since Finn and Lapine have used wit and intelligence and a cascade of bouncy tunes and intricate lyrics to tell the story, there is an extra emotional bite to everything.

Music Director Thomas C. Lissey must have asked everyone "how fast can you sing this?" and then, a week or two later, sitting at the piano in the four-piece band, he started playing everything faster. And all the while Director Russel R. Greene kept adding gestures and blocking and choreographing the furniture, and cranking up the emotional intensity of all those confrontations and soliloquies, until no one could think anymore, they had to just be.

Isabel Davis (Cordelia) and Candace Hopkins (Dr. Charlotte) are those lesbians from next door: one an overeager caterer and cook, the other her adored doctor who saves lives all day --- until unmarried men begin dying inexplicably of what she calls a plague.

Maria Wardwell (Trina) is the perplexed wife who only ever wanted the life and the marriage she thought she understood --- if not with one man, then with another.

David Berti (Mendel) is the hands-on psychiatrist astonished to find himself hoping marital upsets continue because he's falling in love with his patient's wife.

Peter Adams (Whizzer) is the lover, willing to be kept, proud of his independence and flings, amazed by the acceptance and even admiration from his lover's son.

Jonathan Silver (Jason) is the son --- wilfully indifferent, worried that when he says "Today I am a man" at his impending bar-mitzva it may mean something he never expected.

And at the center of it all is Donnie Baillargeon (Marvin), trying desperately not to lie to anyone --- including himself --- no matter how much unintended pain it must cause --- including to himself.

Every one of them comes on stage fully-formed, self-aware, fiercely involved in the moment, passionately singing their hearts out, and alive.

This Footlight Club production of "Falsettos" is everything theater was meant to be.

Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark)

"Falsettos" (till 4 October)
THE FOOTLIGHT CLUB
Eliot Hall, 7A Eliot Street, JAMAICA PLAIN
1(617)524-6506

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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