Saturday, February 22, 2014
This chamber musical by Victor Lodato (book and lyrics) and Polly Pen (music), now in previews at the Vineyard Theatre, is basically an hour-long solo song cycle. To qualify that, the actress and pianist do join forces for a few critical moments and much of the music is more like a long recitative than a series of songs. The piece depicts a day in the life of a young woman from a military family whose husband is away at war in an unspecified desert country. Hyperactive and loquacious, Sara Jane (Alexandra Silber) gradually reveals her feelings about war in general and her husband's role in it in particular. We see her preparing for a visit by her mother who has just had her third plastic surgery and, later, recovering from that visit. I wish we had met the mother; it might have livened things up a bit. The pianist (Ben Moss), hidden behind a scrim, occasionally portrays the husband. A revelation near the end makes some of Sara Jane's behavior seem quite reprehensible. It's a real tour-de-force for Silber, who, except for occasional diction problems, performs well. Moss's role, though relatively small, is important and he is very good. The creative team has impressive credentials: Lodato is a successful novelist/playwright and Guggenheim fellow; Pen has previously succeeded at the Vineyard with Bed and Sofa and Goblin Market; Carolyn Cantor directed the highly praised After the Revolution. Unfortunately, much as I admire what they were aiming for, I found the results of their collaboration less than satisfying.