Anthony Rapps’s Without You – An Epilogue and Half a Play
Disclaimer: Though fully aware of the tragedy of Jonathan Larson’s untimely passing and of the supportive community nature of his musical Rent, I haven’t seen any of its iterations. I conjecture that experience is required in order be affected by Anthony Rapp’s memory piece.
What I call the “epilogue” is adapted from the author/performer’s written memoir about acting in the workshop and original productions of Rent at age of 24 and of becoming its creator’s friend. The basic story would be age old were it not for Larson’s death and Pulitzer Prize. Full-out renditions of some of the numbers from the score are performed. It’s clear Rapp was deeply affected.
The “half a play” concerns this performer’s close relationship with his dying mother which overlaps slightly with the bare bones (just the facts, ma’am) tale of Rent as his “mama” has several operations. It then continues perhaps 20 minutes too long delineating every phone call and touching visit until her death. This part too has few personal specifics.
Apparently Rapp lost two meaningful people in a short time. “One Song Glory” (from Rent) declares: Glory, one blaze of glory/One blaze of glory, glory/ Find, glory, in a song that rings true/Truth like a blazing fire, an eternal flame/ Find, one song, a song about love… In Rapp’s script the two deaths have only tenuous, unexplored connection.
The actor is fully committed, energetic, sincere and has a helluva long note.
Direction by Stephen Maler is fine, but he has little to work with in terms of dramatic content.
Additional music by David Matos, Joe Pisapia, Daniel A. Weiss, Anthony Rapp is uniformly tuneless- prose with music. David Bengali’s photographic patchwork projection design is outstanding- aesthetically pleasing and evocative.
Otherwise yeoman lighting by Eric Southern features intermittent flare of painful high beams that leave one with lingering spots before eyes. Necessary? Brian Ronan’s sound design works well with the rock music score.
Photos by Russ Rowland
Anthony Rapp’s Without You
Written and Starring Anthony Rapp based on his memoir
Featuring the music of Jonathan Larson
New World Stages
340 West 50 Street
Through June 11, 2023