A thirty-something single woman (Farah Alvin as Dr. Carson) rushes into her apartment home late from work. In one smooth move, she sheds her shoes, drops a stack of folders and grabs binoculars. “What is going on? Where are you? It’s 5:57, you should be home!” She’s referring to the tenant of apartment 7G across the courtyard who lives in strict accordance with the clock. The two, she believes, are in a relationship despite never having met.
Our young woman knows so much about the man with whom she eats dinner, watches the news and flosses, conjecture about where he may be is like that of a (crazy) close friend. When she theorizes a doctor’s appointment, the heroine comments he eats far too much bacon. What if-he’s in a hospital?! Despite having actually stalked him, she doesn’t know his name (the one unlikely aspect of her obsession). What if he’s fallen in love?! No, she shuts out the thought.
Except for being twice interrupted by phone calls,the young woman spends 40 minutes agonizing over “his” absence. She builds herself up, disparages men who have previously called her suffocating, resolves to get a grip, then loses it again. The end of the affair comes about without participation. Now what? She finds a resolution.
Words are darkly amusing and resonant, wandering music contemporary operetta.
Farah Alvin has a terrific voice, excellent control, and acting chops sufficient to steadily hold us.
Director Portia Krieger gives Alvin just enough stage business to add credibility. Mood swings are established as she flails around the apartment. Variety is imaginative. It works. Timing is deft.
Words- Deborah Zoe Lauffer
Music Direction/Piano Paul Masse
Virbraphone Brandon Wong
Directed by Portia Krieger
“I was the wrong man for this job,” Leo says pacing around his well appointed bedroom in pjs, circling a shoebox on the floor. He’s about 10 years-old. Neighbor Mrs. Kelton asked that he come out and help with a wounded pigeon. Perhaps classmate Donald Filmore and his father shot it with pellet guns they use to rid the church roof of the messy birds, he suggested.
Sympathetic, she tends to it in her kitchen and, adding water and a few peas to the cardboard hospital room, turns the bird over until it recovers. Leo’s first reaction is disgust, but when Mrs. K tells him about carrier pigeons during World War II, he’s impressed.
It’s Halloween. Mrs. Kelton and her husband are off to a party. The boy’s not Trick or Treating this year as his mom – costume maker supreme – has once again retreated to her bedroom in deep depression. An imaginative contribution is hearing the boy’s heart beat when he grows anxious.
“Just talk to her (the bird),” Leo had been told, so he does. He talks about his mom, recalling vivid, tender moments when she’s been functional. The twin bed in her room remains empty since his soldier dad died. She won’t answer questions. Leo wonders about his neighbors both sleeping in one bed noting they don’t own pajamas. He’s enamored by the pigeon’s iridescence and muses on her habits.
Eventually, the bird takes a little water giving the boy hope, yet holding the box open out his window achieves nothing. Before morning comes, Leo reveals an unexpected secret. Sunlight reveals several major changes.
This is adroitly written, tender and real. Every bit of the monologue sounds like a child in Leo’s circumstances. Music is so symbiotic, one hardly notices it as something separate. The unexpected ending is beautifully manifest.
Finn Douglas has a sweet, boys’ choir voice and a great deal of stage presence. Not only is he word and note perfect, the young actor conjures his mother cutting his hair, grows palpably tense with an admission, and is innocently delighted with the pigeon’s recovery.
Director Noah Himmelstein maintains effective pacing. Leo emerges a touching child rather than a thespian. Awkwardness is palpable.
Words and Music by Daniel Zaitchick
Music Direction/Piano-Deborah Abramson
Violins Patti Kilroy, Ludovica Burtone
Directed by Noah Himmelstein
Music is angry. A woman in her forties slams into her apartment cursing the bus ride from which she’s just escaped. An out of control child was allowed to have a lengthy tantrum by inured parents. Our woman is a single mother, never having married or even told a one-night stand that she’d become pregnant.
Son Kevin is on the spectrum. Like many who are, his social skills require discipline and practice, but he has a unique talent. The adolescent loves city transportation. He knows every stop on every line, in order, wants to go into urban planning, and is developing an app in the area. Mom found an MIT program for which, on her teacher’s salary, they’ll need a scholarship. If he only shines at the upcoming interview. Cue making the sign of the cross and simulation of harikari.
As to the rest, never having told Kevin he has a form of Asperger’s Syndrome enabled her to devise tricks and tools with which he compensates. The boy feels confident, she’s proud. They have a close relationship.
Anxious and excited, she tails Kevin to his Starbuck’s meeting with an MIT representative. It seems to be going well until he sees her. She flees. That night, he lies about it’s having gone well and keeps to his room. Intuition kicks in. Her son becomes obsessed with an Instagram girl who shares every aspect of her own spectrum struggle. He finally asks his mom.
“Why didn’t you trust me?!” she quotes him railing, getting up so quickly a kitchen chair careens across the floor. Arguing the best of intentions does nothing to assuage Kevin’s feelings. Structures that conceal/Platforms that obstruct/Once they’ve done their job/They get chucked, she sings. Kevin moves out and blocks phone calls. Her heart bleeds. It might as well be Greek tragedy.
Clearly the author researched his subject. Details are precise, mom’s solutions ingenious, Kevin’s reactions credible. Remarkable balance is achieved here. We understand both parties’ feelings. The play’s emotional arc is skillfully created.
Rebecca Luker talks about Kevin as if she’s fully constructed the boy in her head. Tacked up are several photos of the actress with a young man Kevin’s age. The stage overflows with maternal love and gratification. We empathize rather than sympathize. At a point in her life, the character might’ve started afresh. Instead, she’s lonely and wretched. Luker’s voice is, as always superb. We believe every minute on stage.
Director Victoria Clark, who has taken on this subject before, offers a strong, smart, contemporary woman as grounded as her son is, in his way, adrift. Though the character’s life revolves around her special boy, she never feels sacrificed. Daily existence is so familiar, its shattering has that much more impact.
Words and Music by Jeff Blumenkrantz
Music Direction/Piano-Benji Goldsmith
Cello Yari Dong
Directed by Victoria Clark
Reid Thomson (Sets/Props), Brooke Cohen Brown (Costumes), Aaron Spivey (Lighting) ably enhance to every piece. Atmosphere created for The Costume is especially well manifest.
These plays are rather extraordinary. One performer holding the stage in sung monologue is very different from either musical theater or concert. Focus must be multipronged. Musicianship is top notch on all three pieces.
Photos by Russ Roland
Opening: Farah Alvin
Inner Voices 2018- The World Premiere of Three One Act Musicals
TBG Mainstage Theatre
312 West 36th Street 3rd floor
Through November 17, 2018