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.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Tragedy ensues when two roommates allow a pair of accessible celebrities to shape their lives. While the leading actors turn in fine performances, they simply can't save this production from the muddled themes that defy the title, rejectable plot details and lazy set changes.

Reviewed by Cindy Pierre

Suffer the anonymous ones, for they uphold the famous. But when the nobodies get rebuffed for their support, the celebrities can be dropped in more ways that one. In David Stallings' new play with music, Arpeggio, sweet but unbalanced Gerry (Allison Ikin) gets her heart and hopes dashed by not one, but two celebrities. And since asylums hath no crazies like a groupie scorned, the lives of two roommates and the two celebrities who feed on them get very nutty as a result. Unfortunately, not all of the craziness stems from Gerry's pain. There's so much going on in addition to this premise that unlike an arpeggio (in music, the term means the sounding of the notes of a chord in rapid succession instead of simultaneously), this play remains in a constant state of confusion.

When Midwesterner Gerry moves to New York and in with Zeb (Andy Travis), personal assistant to pop singer Cindy Hall (Kristina Kohl), he winds up with much more than a roommate. He gets a confidante who brings entertainment in the form of music and TV into his life, and another pop singer, Tobin Grey (Jonathan Albert) into his living room and on his walls. Unlike her predecessors, Gerry doesn't seem at all impressed by Zeb's job, which is the major reason why he initially chose her as a roommate. In fact, rather than get starstruck when she meets his boss, she gets into an argument with her over a cell phone. From henceforward, there's no love lost between the two ladies in Zeb's life. Zeb finds out later that Gerry's ease around celebrities comes from her experience with them. She claims that not only is she a Tobin Grey fanatic, she's also his real girlfriend. After the initial skepticism, Zeb believes her. To further complicate Zeb's life, he has a burgeoning relationship with Colombian immigrant Ricardo (Marino Antonio Minino) whose temporary visa is expiring soon. But Zeb is also a commitmentphobe and an infidel. To rejuvenate Zeb's faith in love, Gerry offers to marry his boyfriend to keep him in the country. And as chaos erupts within the walls of Zeb's apartment, Cindy Hall brings her own version of it to his door with her concerns over her fledgling celebrity status and her constant attempts to control every aspect of his life.

Arpeggio is the equivalent of a child palming all the piano keys at once to produce a discordant, untrained sound. Stallings is attempting to say a lot of important things, but saying them all at once produces a lot of noise. On the one hand, there is the question of whether a real relationship can exist between a star and someone who isn't in the limelight. Zeb, though quite aware of how self-absorbed and vain Cindy Hall is, seems to think that there is a friendship between them. There is nothing to indicate that she feels the same, particularly since she views herself as a product that even her assistant uses. What's amusing, however, is that Cindy Hall does all of the using, and all Zeb does is protect her in return. This power exchange makes the scene in which the two reunite and exclaim how they miss each other ring false. There is also the critique of America's obsession with celebrity, as exhibited by Gerry's infatuation with Tobin Grey. However, Gerry cannot even really be used as an instrument to show this because to be obsessed with celebrity, she would have to latch on to more than one and what that status provides. Instead, she is fixated on one person, which indicates an underlying loneliness and false fulfillment of her fantasies which ultimately is a deeper psychological issue.

There is a critique about America's obsession with technology, highlighted by several scenes in which cell phones and their importance are featured. There is the element of a star and her self-reflection, but that is also a thin theme. Cindy Hall complains about not feeling like a real person and never being treated as one, but she thrives on being an idol. This is best demonstrated in the beginning of Act Two, where she lip syncs and does a sexy dance with a chair, resembling a pop commodity that we've seen before. However, there is an awkwardness in her performance that suggests that she is not completely comfortable with selling herself, particularly to the pre-teen demographic that she commands. Ricardo introduces a theme about immigration policies that is completely out of place here. Although his rants are compelling, they belong in another show entirely. The final notable theme presented is the notion that everyone is fake to a certain extent, and that most people's artifice can be shrugged off. That is a heavy statement that ties in with Gerry's plight, but it's also one that can exist on its own.

Several plot details that support the themes are questionable. For practical set purposes, all of Zeb's interactions with Cindy Hall take place in his apartment where she always comes to him. However, this is unbelievable because this doesn't exemplify an assistant who is at his boss' call. Having Cindy Hall pick up her own dry cleaning and constantly run to Zeb is not very glamorous of her, even if her fame is being threatened. When Tobin Grey gives Gerry the "I'm not him" speech in which he confirms her stalker status and destroys her illusion, it sets off a chain of events that propel the plot towards an alarming road.

However, there's no logical reason for the conversation to take place at all. Gerry isn't doing anything that threatens Tobin's safety, and flying to various cities to follow his tour is not uncommon for a fan to do. And since his safety isn't compromised, there is no reason for him to tell her to stay away. He couldn't possibly be concerned about her emotional and mental frailty, particularly since Stallings draws a picture of the celebrity as an idol and nothing more. And let's face it. An unbalanced fan is a celebrity's bread and butter. Why burst her bubble? Finally, it is implied that Ricardo gets arrested for jaywalking at some point. Seriously. In New York? Not only is this a weak plot point for practical purposes, but given Ricardo's passions, Stallings could have easily come up with something more compelling and true to his character.

Technically, the set changes are sluggish, masked by the performance of Tobin Grey and his band. Although live music is a nice touch, only Truth Within the Lie sung by Allison Ikin (written by Stallings and arranged by Sarah Chaney) makes an impression. Also, while there are several location changes, the majority of the set pieces stay the same. It is difficult to place actors in new locations when a prop or two is brought into a stationary set, and all of the parts remain illuminated. A little tweaking with the lighting design by Ian Crawford may solve that problem. Finally, a large stage light is used to represent a TV. Even the glaring light from the bulb can't make us accept this TV.

Although Andy Travis and Allison Ikin have great chemistry and deliver fine performances, it's not enough to save this play. Stallings could have had a strong drama about fantasy vs. illusion if there weren't so many embellishments. Similar in format to Katie Lemos' Four Unfold: A City Story With Song, Arpeggio takes the part-monologue, part musical, part drama formula to the extreme without fixing any of the problems. And if this show has any hope of having a distinct sound, the notes of the chord need to be arranged in a logical, melodic way.

Through November 18th. Tickets: $25. TheaterMania at 212-352-3101.
45th Street Theater 354 W 45th StNew York, NY 10036

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