Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Dating History In Song

Jason Powell's IN LOVE is entertaining early-on

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Anybody's dating history would make interesting material for a theatrical production. Love is really, really weird. This much we all know. The trick is bringing it to the stage in a way that is novel and interesting. Jason Powell does a pretty good job of this in In Love…Yet Again

 

It's a musical starring himself and three of the actresses in town he probably hasn't dated yet. We see the writer/composer work through a long autobiographical series of songs that detail a checkered past. Some of the songs are quite witty. Some of them are staggeringly inspired. And some of them are kind of weak. So I guess it's kind of a mix. 

 

Powell has a really solid grasp on the irony of his own life. Constantly finding himself in relationships with women in relationships who are in relationships with other men . . . and then there's the whole unrequited thing. This is quite familiar territory for anyone and sure to bring back a flood of dating memories for anyone with the courage to see it . . . 

 

Powell's charm carries the show a long way. At one point he asks a woman from the audience out on a first date and then performs one of the shows wittier songs to her . . . Powell's nice guy obliviousness to his own folly is a lot of fun for the first half of the show . . . after that it gets a little repetitious. 

 

The three women sharing the  stage with Powell keep it moving quite well. Each of them has her chance to sake the center of the stage . . . Katy Johnson has a fun little piece where she plays the unattainably beautiful high school cheerleader. Ashley Retzlaff plays a neurotic woman from Powell's past with some charm and sophistication. And through it all, Joanna H. Kerner plays the woman who has to listen to the story from beginning to end, frequently aiming sweetly critical comments in his general direction. 

 

(Kerner had a bit of an interesting opportunity here to play a really talented actress that Powell nearly dated . . . and there were more than enough clues in the script for me to figure out who he was talking about. This is the first time Kerner has a central role in a show I have the opportunity to see and she's playing one of my favorite local actresses . . . it was kind of a weird experience for me. And now I can't see that Kerner and not picture her as this other actress…it's kind of a weird association for me.)

 

My own personal weirdness aside, the show breaks down towards the end . . . yes, anyone's dating history makes for an interesting show (particularly with Powell's talent for comic delivery and songwriting) but anyone's dating history is . . . well . . . repetitious. Powell's charm carries the show pretty far, but it isn't long before it becomes apparent that the premise for the show itself is still in a relationship with someone else. It doesn't know where that relationship is going, but it really needs to see it through to the end before it can commit to being a thoroughly satisfying evening for the audience. So it's not hugely satisfying, but it is a lot of fun.

 

Project Empty Space's production of In Love…Yet Again runs through May 5th at the Alchemist Theatre. For ticket reservations, visit Alchemist Online. 

 

 

 

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