A Sign of The Times – Formulaic, But Entertaining

Essentially a 1960s jukebox musical, A Sign of the Times manages to fit Women’s Liberation, Civil Rights, and the Vietnam War into a familiar coming of age story without too much blatant effort. Though characters are cliché, the script is clever, often wry and neatly, if sketchily, reflects the era. Its score is hit or miss. There are songs released after the 1965 date in which the tale is set. Many were originally introduced by British Petula Clark rather than an American (this is an innately American history); a few are shoehorned in. A portion of them, however, make sense and are prefaced by obvious intros that those who grew up with this music anticipate and chuckle. Vocals are consistently good.

Crystal Lucas-Perry (Tanya), Chilina Kennedy (Cindy)

Ohioan Cindy (Chilina Kennedy – solid work) refuses her boyfriend Matt’s (Justin Matthew Sargent – well grounded) marriage proposal and the predictable life it offers. Instead, she comes to New York in hopes of becoming a professional photographer. Cindy recognizes and reaches towards social change; Matt is oblivious. On the bus, she meets African American activist Cody (Akron Lanier Watson – excellent) who will later become the love interest of Manhattan roommate, aspiring singer, Tanya (Crystal Lucas-Perry – performance high spot) Ah, the serendipity of musicals.

Alyssa Carol, Melessie Clark, Chilina Kennedy, Lena Teresa Matthews, and Erica Simone Barnett

After months of pounding the pavement and endless propositions, Cindy literally bumps-cute into advertising executive Brian (Ryan Silverman – reliably fine). This leads to an underling job at his agency and serial dating. Despite her own common sense and warnings, the Midwesterner falls for Brian, initially missing the misogynous nature of the man and his office. (The latter is deftly staged.)

Meanwhile, Tanya meets and gets involved with Cody. An unexpected stage opportunity at Randy Forthwall’s – read Warhol’s – disco (Edward Staudenmayer – self conscious), elicits a professional overture from producer Quincy Jones. As her boyfriend becomes more dedicated to action/demonstration, Tanya struggles with commitment to the cause.

Everything comes out all right, of course.

Crystal Lucas-Perry (Tanya), Akron Lanier Watson (Cody)

The piece might successfully be cut by 20 to 30 minutes. Even with caveats, however, it’s undemanding, entertaining, and should find an audience.

Director Gabriel Barre keeps proceedings going at a bouncy clip. Scenes morph fluidly from one to the other. Characters appear sincere even when acting naïve. A number on wheeled desk chairs and the use of Playboy bunny ears are creative.

Choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter is decidedly sixties. The Mashed Potato, The Frug, The Hully Gully and The Twist are evident underpinnings.

Ryan Silverman (Brian), Chilina Kennedy (Cindy)

Scenic design (Evan Adamson) and projection design (Brad Peterson) work hand in hand. Dog food silkscreen art meant to stand-in for Andy Warhol’s soup cans, are grand, though the club bar looks like it’s covered in aluminum foil. Sliding panels work well scene to scene. Projection images are well chosen, but too many, making it difficult to focus on performers.

Women’s costumes  (Johanna Pan) are consistently unflattering in color, print, cut and fit. Chilina Kennedy’s (Cindy) wigs are terrible. (J. Jared Janas)

Photos by Jeremy Daniel

The York Theatre Company in association with
Wells Street Productions and Richard J. Robin presents
A Sign of The Times
Book by Lindsay Hope Pearlman
Story by Richard J. Robin
Music Contractor – Kristy Norter
Directed by Gabriel Barre

New World Stages
340 West 50th Street

About Alix Cohen (1726 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.