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fauxklore
19 June 2019 @ 02:46 pm
Falsettos: Friday night, I went to see Falsettos at the Kennedy Center. For those who are unfamiliar with it, this is the story of a rather complicated family. In the first act, set in 1979, Marvin has left his wife, Trina, for a man, Whizzer. Trina goes to see Marvin’s psychiatrist, Mendel, who falls for her. Marvin and Trina’s son, Jason, is caught in the whole mess.

By the second act, in 1981, Mendel and Trina are married. Marvin and Whizzer split up, but then get back together. Jason is preparing for his bar mitzvah. Then Whizzer gets AIDS.

This all sounds like it could be pretty bleak, but there is plenty of humor and a generally tuneful score. This was helped by strong performances from the entire cast. I want to particularly note Eden Espinosa as Trina and Jonah Mussolino as Jason. Since I often complain about the KenCen’s lack of local actors, I should also note that Mendel was played by Nick Blaemire, who has performed at Signature and, more significantly, wrote the music and lyrics for the notorious Glory Days, which had a single performance on Broadway.

Overall, I liked the show quite a bit, with a few qualms about the frenetic choreography (especially for Mendel). And the set / staging which had blocks of furniture being moved around into different configurations constantly was rather distracting.

Spunk: I saw Spunk at Signature Theatre on Saturday. This is a combination of three stories by Zora Neale Hurston, with music by Chic Street Man. Iyona Blake, who is also stunning, was a sort of one-woman Greek chorus called Blues Speak Woman who narrated parts of some of the stories and sang the blues (with guitar accompaniment by Jonathan Mosley-Perry) in between them.

The first story, Sweat had to do with a woman being terrorized by her husband and a rattlesnake he keeps in a cage, until he ultimately gets his just rewards. That story held my attention, but was a lot more violent than I would have preferred.

The second piece, Story in Harlem Slang, has to do with a couple of flashy men harassing a girl. I had a hard time with the dialect, but my bigger issue is that nothing really happened. I’ve actually read this story and it’s funny on the page, but I needed some narrative for it to work for me on the stage. I should note that much of the audience found the whole thing uproarious, so this is me, not the story itself.

The final story (after an intermission) was The Gilded Six-Bits, which involves a young married couple and what happens when a flashy guy opens an Ice cream parlor. I found the story fairly predictable, alas.

Overall, this show just didn’t resonate with me. I associate Hurston with her work as a folklorist, so the stories were not what I was expecting. And, since I am neither African-American nor southern, the cultural gap was significant.

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