Friday, November 9, 2007

Off-Off-Broadway ARPEGGIO is a Delight!

If you're in or around Manhattan, I recommend you take a night and go see David Stallings' new play, Arpeggio at the 45th Street Theatre. It is quite a wonderful night's entertainment.

In the play, Zeb gets a new roommate; a girl named Gerry who is sweet and cute, and best of all, unaffected by celebrity-awe. Quite important, since Zeb's adoptive sister, friend, and employer is pop-star Cindy Hall (think Jessica Simpson / pre-mental Britney). Gerry divulges a secret of her own: she's dating rock star Tobin. A sub-plot involves Zeb's boyfriend Ricardo, who needs to find a way to stay in the country after his student visa expires, and Gerry suggests she'll marry him. I don't want to say more about the plot, because how it all unravels is what makes the play.

The writing is accomplished. David Stallings' dialogue is so well written that it seems entirely organic most of the time, as if you were really listening to people's conversations. There are a few monologues which have astute observations both intellectually and emotionally, and these are presented with eloquence. Music is intertwined within the play (it is, after all, a play involving two music stars) and works very well.

What elevates the production above the usual off-off-Broadway fare, apart from the deft script, are the excellent performances by the cast. Andy Travis as Zeb is eminently likable; he gives a multi-faceted performance of all Zeb's insecurities, flaws, and neuroses, and also infuses the character with a wealth of humor and warmth. Allison Ikin as Gerry is so believable it is almost eerie to watch her — she is like a dancer on a tightrope between lovable and creepy, someone to feel sorry for, someone to fear. Possessed of a fabulous voice, she held the audience in the palm of her hand with a ballad, the most moving moment of the evening.

Kristina Kohl as on-the-descent superstar Cindy Hall is a fabulous powerhouse. She not only shows the shrewd business woman and the ego-centric child, but also the vulnerability, hurt, and loneliness of a person whose self-worth is tied to external validation. She opened Act II with a song & dance number that would have made any diva jealous. I would have wanted more of Cindy's character in the play, and more of Kristina Kohl. Equal parts Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep, she had a firm grip on both comedy and drama and was gorgeous to boot.

The play continues until November 18th, which means you've 2 weeks left in which to see it. It's well worth the time and the ticket price.

What: Arpeggio
When: November 1-18, 2007
Where: The 45th Street Theatre, Upstairs
354 West 45th St (b/n 8th & 9th Ave)
Info and tickets: TheatreMania

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