INNER VOICES: SOLO MUSICALS

  • Date:
    April 1, 2010
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall

    7 Apr 2010
    Review by Tulis McCall

    Oiy. I haven’t a clue. I don’t know what it was I saw, and I don’t know why I saw it. Out of all the shows in the world to produce, how did this get picked out of the hat?

    This is an evening of two solo musicals presented by Premieres, whose mission is to “create new partnerships among exceptional writers and composers and commission, develop and present their works.” Here they are introducing a “new genre of theatre that unites the spoke monologue into a tapestry of lyrics and music.” Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads is cited as inspiration for this idea.

    Me, I’m a big fan of Alan Bennett, and I like to think I’m okay at writing the occasional monologue. I’ve never tried to put one to music. I bet it’s a daunting task. After seeing this production I sure of it.

    Two excellent performers Heidi Blickenstaff (Ruth) and Judith Blazer (Whida Peru) each tell us a story. They are both examining their lives. Ruth is going through old photos and stories and talking to us, sort of. Whida prefers her stories on the paranormal side. She is talking to people who have passed on. Both of these women are engaging performers, and they do the best they can. Judith Blazer in particular goes after her story like a woman who hasn’t eaten red meat in a month and just spotted a juicy steak.

    Trouble is, there is no “there” there. Blickenstaff is confined to her chair while she speaks to a slideshow on her computer. She is trying to write a song, examine her relationships, research her health, and ends up with memories that sidetrack her muse. Blazer is also confined as a Puerto Rican transsexual agoraphobic clairvoyant (say that three times fast) who has not left her apartment in 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 minutes - the exact time that has elapsed since her man died. When she tries to celebrate by calling him to her, he gives her the bad news that it is time for her to move on.

    There are melodies that float through these two pieces like scarves of colored gauze. In the case of the latter there are a couple of tunes we can hang our hat on, but on the whole the melodies float down the drain so fast you are not certain you heard them. There ain’t enough meat on in either piece and what there is ain’t choice.

    To add insult to injury – the sound is completely out of balance. There is only one piano and a guitar onstage, but neither of these women can be heard consistently. Blickenstaff is wearing a mic that didn’t seem to be working, and Glazer may think she doesn’t need one because her voice is so strong. Normally that may be true, but in this case she is overpowered by the piano.

    The musicians are fine; the actors are very, very good. But without a script and score that merit respect, they are just people on a stage hoping that something will happen. They deserve better.

    Somebody forgot to weave that darn old tapestry. At best Inner Voices is a collection of threads that collectively do not yet warp and woof make.

    (Tulis McCall)

    "A funny and enjoyable portrait of a highly theatrical character."
    Charles Isherwood for New York Times

    "Remarkably insubstantial."
    Erik Haagensen for Back Stage

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - Back Stage