Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review of Brown Paper Box Co.'s They're Playing Our Song

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called They're Playing Our Song. The book was by Neil Simon, the music was by Marvin Hamlisch, and the lyrics were by Carole Bayer Sager. It was directed and choreographed by Daniel Spagnuolo. The musical director was Iliana Atkins. It was about a man and a woman, Vernon (Dan Gold) and Sonia (Carmen Risi), who were both songwriters; she writes lyrics, and he writes music. They start writing songs together, and at first they absolutely loathe each other, and then as time goes on they start to feel romantically toward each other. But they don't seem very compatible. She is an optimist and he is a pessimist. She will help anyone in need, and he doesn't really want to help anyone once he's cut ties with them. She is more adventurous, and he is more set in his ways. Also, Sonia has a ex-boyfriend that she is still taking care of. It is about the ways we make decisions, who you are meant to be with, and artistic collaboration. I think this is a very intriguing and funny and heartwarming show. It made me think about the ways gender roles can hurt relationships and how broken relationships can restart.

I think the songs "If She Really Knew Me" and "If He Really Knew Me" were really interesting songs because they sound like they would be the exact same song only replacing pronouns, but then they are actually different in an important way. They both want the other to help them find out who they really are, but she is more talking about if he has lived up to her expectations of who this great songwriter was. And for Vernon's song it is more about what she wants and if he is good enough for her. It kind of seems like Sonia knows she is good enough for him and doesn't need to shape up but just needs to realize if he's lived up to her expectations. And he wants to live up to her expectations, but he doesn't seem to really have any expectations for her. But as the play progresses you start to see those develop a little bit more. I think it is important because the message of the songs evolves so that Vernon wants her to actually do things instead of just for her to like him. It is good writing because you see the relationship evolve into both of them having expectations for the other.

I really liked the song "Right." I thought it was a really fun pep-talk-to-yourself song with Sonia and her voices (Elissa Newcorn, Ariana Cappuccitti, and Deanalis Resto). I really liked how her voices were like a girl group in the background that reminded me of The Supremes. The song was really catchy. Vernon also had voices (Mike Danovich, Bradley Halverson, and John Marshall Jr.) that would sing to him about his decision making, his romantic choices, and his songwriting choices. I thought that was a fun touch--cheesy but in a fun way. I thought the arc of "Right" was also really good. The voices in her head start out being pessimistic, but then they are won over and decide that maybe Sonia and Vernon have a chance after all. Another funny song was "They're Playing My Song" that happened when Sonia and Vernon went to a club on their first date. I don't feel like this is the most original melody in the world, but I have never heard a song about hearing your own song being played. And it was great to see all the performers having a blast with the song. It was funny how when they would hear their own songs they would jump up and immediately start jamming. I think if their songs hadn't been played they wouldn't have gotten up and danced and eventually gotten together. It shows that they are kind of self-involved people, which might actually make for a good couple because they won't notice when the other person isn't paying attention because they'll be so obsessed with themselves.

I think "Fill in the Words" is a very pretty but sad song. It is about how Vernon knows he needs to work on himself to get Sonia back. And he is worried that maybe she won't still be there by the time he gets back, even though she bought him a mini piano. He's realized that asking her to always fill in the words (or do all the emotional work in the relationship) is not the right way to keep a relationship healthy. I think it is really sweet how all of Vernon's voices came in and played some notes on his piano during this song. It shows you that he using all his voices to compose this song and the voices are all getting along. This song leads perfectly to the end of the play. I think it is a really good way to make the ending make sense because you know his internal monologue and the reason why he goes to visit Sonia in the last scene.

People who would like this show are people who like hearing their own songs, girl-group pep talks, and mini pianos. I think people should definitely go see this show. It is a fun show with talented performers and interesting ideas, and I really liked it.

Photos: Zach Dries

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