According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Everythings Turning Into Beautiful
by Aaron Riccio

She's cute and passive, he's endearing and seductive, but there's a lack of chemistry . . . until the music forces them onto the same page. But sadly, this isn't a CD review.

Meet the next genre of theater: the jukebox drama. In The New Group’s new production Everythings Turning Into Beautiful, it’s Seth Zvi Rosenfeld’s dialogue that seems cheesy and the songs by Jimmie James that get to the heart of things. The two actors—Daphne Rubin-Vega and Malik Yoba—also seem more at ease when singing. That comes as no surprise, considering that Rubin-Vega’s claim to fame was originating the role of Mimi in Rent and that Yoba’s attempts to tone down his character mask his talent, something he doesn’t have to worry about when “performing.” Without the music, this would just be an average play about average life—with the music, it is able to liven the tedium long enough to reach the more engrossing second act.

Drama needs to establish character and circumstance through action, and barring the music, the first act of Everythings Turning Into Beautiful has none. Both Yoba and Rubin-Vega seem sleepy for the first twenty minutes, and this unfortunately shades a lot of the show with dull exposition and interesting stories that don’t have much heart behind them. For instance, Yoba’s character, Sam, has just walked from Washington Heights to his songwriting partner’s Chelsea loft, arriving at two in the morning on Christmas Eve. His explanation, lackadaisically delivered, is that he was so depressed that he wanted to give God the opportunity to hit him with a stray bullet or a drunkenly driven car. In the other corner, Brenda is a lonesome, manic woman, driven to seclusion by her secret fears. Interesting as these circumstances are, unless the characters come out swinging, it’s just a lot of talk. She’s cute and passive, he’s endearing and seductive, and there’s an utter lack of chemistry . . . until the music. But this isn’t a CD review.

I call this a jukebox drama because the script seems written to provide the back-story for the songs, not the other way around. There are a few exceptions, like the song “Seu Toda Bom,” which is just an upbeat shift between spats, but the play generally serves as liner notes for the cryptic poetry of songs like “Windows” or “A Safe Place.” Not that the songs are all mysterious—the headliner, “Everything, Too” speaks for itself. I’m just not convinced that the construction of Everythings Turning Into Beautiful is a good thing: it relies far too heavily on the gimmick of song, and even more heavily on the audience’s patience. The playwright’s mix of clever kitsch and natural blather won’t grab your attention unless you go for lines like “I want the cake, and to eat it, and not get fat” or “I wish I were passionate enough about life to want to die.” And though Rubin-Vega and Yoba both grow more and more into their roles as the play continues, the question persists of whether or not there was enough there to begin with.

Everythings Turning Into Beautiful isn’t turning anywhere: it’s a one-note song that’s simply missing a hook.

[Aaron Riccio]

Photo/Carol Rosegg
Acorn Theater (410 West 42nd Street)
Tickets (212-279-4200): $50.00
Performances: Monday-Saturday @ 8:00 & Saturday @ 2:00

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