Wednesday, December 17, 2008

ReWrite: A Musical Comedy Triple Feature


By Joe Iconis. Dir. John Simpkins. Urban Stages. (CLOSED)

Rising musical theater iconoclast Joe Iconis presents three 30-minute musicals, unrelated except by a late-arriving meta-theatrical conceit, and critics are starkly divided over whether he's a charmingly fresh voice or an iffy craftsman with little new to say. We haven't broken down grades for each of the mini-musicals, but we can report that most critics like his geek-love opener, "Nelson Rocks!"; all of them find "Miss Marzipan" forced; and a few go to bat for the final, self-reflexive piece, "The Process," though even its admirers note its debt to [title of show].

Talk Entertainment A-
(Oscar E Moore) Who, you may ask, is Joe Iconis? He might very well be the new voice of musical comedy...[ReWrite] will either have you quickly becoming a fan of his particular type of musical comedy or not. For those seeking the old form with songs destined to become standard hits and for a linear story line this may not be your cup of tea. But for those open to new structure, new thoughts, snippets of wonderful melodic motifs, great fun and gutsy feelings - by all means rush to this most unique and innovative show...The cast is superlative and under the direction of John Simpkins. B+
(Robert Weinstein) The show is very funny and very good. Iconis and director John Simpkins joyously explore the ways time shapes action and character while also using it to shed light on how we, the audience, define them. Iconis's score acts as the show's metronome, pacing the action and adding texture to enhance its vision. His lyrics are smart, funny, and referential...Though there are moments in the show that strain the credibility scale, Iconis endows his characters with a rich emotional life and Simpkins keeps a firm grip on the dignity of the play's reality.

Variety B+
(Sam Thielman) The idea that a talented 27-year-old composer would want to work in a form as badly depleted as musical comedy is encouraging in itself, and it's not that he can't write with depth, it's that depth sometimes escapes him. "ReWrite" is a little wobbly, but it's by no means a misstep -- see it for the songs, the gags and the talented cast, sure, but pay attention to the momentum gathering behind its writer.

The New York Times B
(Neil Genzlinger) “Nelson Rocks!,” starts out looking like every other geek-seeks-date story you’ve ever seen...but just about the time you’re saying, “Is that all he’s got?,” the nuttiness sets in...He...expertly lays the groundwork for two perfect jokes, which land late in the piece to showstopping effect. The songs are pretty good too. Parts 2 and 3 of the triple bill, which is directed by John Simpkins, never quite rise to the heights of “Nelson Rocks!,” but Part 2, “Miss Marzipan,” comes close...Part 3, “The Process,” is a disappointment.

CurtainUp B
(Julia Furay) A kooky but likeable musical from talented young writer Joe Iconis...The cast is always appealing...Director John Simpkins keeps the tone cheerful and at a fast pace throughout...Beneath Iconis's quirkiness lies a talented dramatist who knows how to create a nicely integrated musical. Even though not an especially memorable piece, ReWrite has a funny and individual voice.

Theatermania B
(Patrick Lee) Although Iconis (who is also the bookwriter, as well as a fixture on stage as piano accompanist) has some fun with details that tie the musicals together, he's basically crafted three stand-alone pieces which add up to an uneven whole under John Simpkins' direction.

That Sounds Cool C+
(Aaron Riccio) If you don’t buy the three one-acts structure, loosely connected by a melody and a character, then the show is an after-school special about confidence (“Nelson Rocks!”), a musical twist on Durang-style loneliness (“Miss Marzipan”), and a self-aware but fatuous look at musicals—[title of show] without the honesty (“The Process”)...The one thing ReWrite has going for it is that it’s so mundane...The end result is charmingly underwhelming.

Village Voice C+
(Michael Feingold) Way overamplified for the tiny space, Joe Iconis's bouncy show-rock score depicts the tiny stories of stock types: the geeky high school boy who can't get a prom date; the geeky future of the girl who turns him down; the geeky songwriter (named Joe) who invented them. No imaginative reach, no subtlety, everything wildly overdone—but youth, energy, and a hint of better things to come make up for a lot, as do terrific new presences like Badia Farha and A.J. Shively.

Backstage D
(Mark Peikert) After forcing the audience to sit through an hour that doesn't feature one truly memorable song, asking them to watch 20-plus minutes of a Joe Iconis stand-in—performing next to the real Iconis, who plays the piano throughout—talking about his creative process and the voices in his head that prevent him from accomplishing anything substantial indicates a surprising lack of self-awareness...The musical [title of show]...accomplishes with a single song what Iconis grapples with for 20 messy minutes.

Talk Entertainment A- 12; B+ 11; Variety B+ 11NYT B 10; CU B 10; TM B 10; That Sounds Cool C+ 8; Village Voice C+ 8; BS D 3; TOTAL: 83/9=9.22 (B-)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Repost (sorry!)

Variety review here: