Monday, May 15, 2017

Review of Theatre Above the Law's What Rhymes With America

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called What Rhymes With America. It was by Melissa James Gibson and directed by Tony Lawry. It was about a father named Hank (Dan Sauer) who was trying to rebuild his relationship with his daughter Marlene (Olivia Nicholson) after he has gotten a divorce from his wife. He is trying to win back his wife, but is also interested in other women. There's a woman named Sheryl (Brittany Vogel) who is being a supernumerary with him in the opera. And they seem to be a good match for each other, but he seems to be more interested in the awkward aspiring writer, Lydia (Alicia Ciuffini), but it seems that his (unseen) wife always gets in the way. It is about family, trying to find love, and deeply flawed people. I think this show had a lot of interesting moments and characters.

I was really surprised that a show that had mostly women characters did not pass the Bechdel test. Most of the scenes have Hank in them, and even when Marlene and Lydia have a conversation together they are mostly talking about Lydia's dad who has died. And then Hank even enters that scene. I thought it was troubling that the women never talk to each other and the few seconds they talk together it was about their dads. The main character is a man, and the play is about all the women in his life but mostly in the context of their relationships with Hank.

Sheryl and Hank's scenes were very humorous and uncomfortably funny because she was always complaining how she never got any acting roles. She doesn't understand why no one wants to cast her, but the audience could kind of see that it was because she was overdramatic as a person and also in all of her roles. There is a funny moment where she does the audition for Hank that she had done earlier for Lady Macbeth and had been cut off in the middle. Which, if you know anything about auditions, if they ever say "That's all we need to see," that is not a good sign! When she is doing it for Hank, she is gesturing a lot and using invisible props and she is using the language like she's trying to impress her audience. She also basically explains everything that she is doing to Hank so he will understand her acting better. And I kept wondering if she did that in the audition. If she did, that might have been the reason why she was stopped in the middle of the audition! I kind of feel sorry for her, but at the same time it is hilarious to watch her lack of self-awareness, but also slightly sad.

I thought it was really interesting how the first and last scenes of the play take place with Hank and Marlene on opposites sides of a door because Hank's ex-wife doesn't want them to see each other. He really loves his daughter and he wants to be able to see her again. I think there are some sweet moments in these scenes. I thought they were heartbreaking and some of the best scenes in the play. I think it was realistic how Marlene reacted to her parents getting a divorce. She started getting all emo and writing these songs about deep stuff. It was funny and sad at the same time.

People who would like this show are people who like stories about dads, songs about deep stuff, and over-explained Lady Macbeths. I think this show has good moments and I think a lot of people will really enjoy finding humor in the very flawed people.

Photos: Molly Maloney

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