Sunday, November 17, 2013

Theatre at Arts Garage: The Longing And The Short Of It (reviews)

Theatre at Arts Garage opened its production of The Longing And The Short Of It on November 1, 2013.
The Longing and the Short of It is an evening of catchy, thrilling, and unpredictable theatre songs in a variety of delightful musical styles, written and composed by acclaimed composer/lyricistDaniel Maté (2013 Kleban Prize for Most Promising Musical Theatre Lyricist.) Six actors play a multitude of relatable characters, all struggling to find love and acceptance, or the nearest available substitute. Whether acting out lustily at a party, running into an ex in a public place and saying all the wrong things, pleading insanity to keep a relationship from ending, or simply enjoying a nice, quiet self-pity party at home, these people all long to feel, in the words of the opening song, “something like okay”.
Max Friedman directed a cast that included John Herrera, Liz Lark Brown, Elizabeth Dimon, Henry Gainza, Alix Paige, and Noah Zachary.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Like a reporter, Daniel Maté holds up a mirror so we can examine ourselves more clearly in his new musical The Longing and The Short Of It at the Theatre at Arts Garage. But his vision has such incisive clarity that he is more a chronicler whose work decades hence will enable our descendants to see, as Wilder suggested in Our Town, this is how we lived in the early part of the 21st Century.
It’s a collection of songs with no book, no plot and perhaps the faintest wisp of developmental arc, unified by the author’s vision and a loose theme. Yet, that doesn’t undercut the effectiveness of the individual pieces nor their accumulated weight at the end of the evening.
To physicalize those portraits of very ordinary and thereby recognizable people, Arts Garage has gathered six engaging and winning performers, most with local ties: Liz Lark Brown, the local favorite Elizabeth Dimon, Actors Playhouse stalwart Henry Gainza, Broadway vet John Herrera, Alix Paige who was Aldonza in Dramaworks’ Man of La Mancha, and Noah Zachary.
Visiting director Max Friedman moves his players around unobtrusively through solos, duets and group numbers while musical director Paul Reekie guides the cast through challenging twists in the melody lines as well as the choral arrangements by Maté. Both men encourage their performers to find the emotional core of the songs and deliver the
sentiments fully and cleanly without begging for sympathy.
It’s a thoughtful offering for adventurous audiences as the third season opener for Tyrrell’s venture whose artistic vision echoes that of his defunct Florida Stage. If there’s any justice, these songs and Maté’s voice will be heard across the country.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
While the industry already knows Daniel Maté — the recipient of this year's Kleban Prize for most promising new lyricist and other awards — it is Tyrrell who has given Maté his first fully staged professional production. But judging from the abundant quality of the song cycle in The Longing and the Short of It, it is inevitable Maté’s work will become widely known and acclaimed.
Director Max Friedman has a nimble company of six performers, divided into pairs of 20-somethings, 30-ish folks and a couple representing the 50s, though ultimately little is made of the age differences or the pairings. A standout in the cast is Elizabeth Dimon, either because she was dealt two of the better solos (Starting S..t With You and When I Get Enlightened) or she delivers them so well. Also above par are Broadway veteran John Herrera, the slyly comic Henry Gainza (negotiating the shoals of a first encounter on We Don’t Have to Date) and the throaty, bespectacled Alix Paige who, among other things, takes the leads on a hip throwaway number about Facebook.
The Sun-Sentinel once again inexplicably buries a review of a mainstream theatre piece in their Gay Boyfriend blog: on second thought, it IS Rod Stafford Hagwood, who has yet to completely master the art of complete sentences.
The song cycle by Daniel Mate is akin to telepathically listening to the inner dialogue of various people as they negotiate the dry humor that often helps one to swallow the bitter pills of big-city life: paralyzing insecurities, existential crises and feeble loneliness.

It’s either that or the therapy sessions from Jerry Seinfeld, Elaine May and Woody Allen transcribed and set to music, somewhere between coffeehouse strumming and showtune-cabaret cleverness.
If anything can keep the performance buoyant, it just may be this cast of six singers supported by four musicians (the piano player, in particular, added plenty of sass here and there). Mate may have won the 2013 Kleban Prize for the Most Promising Musical Theatre Lyricist, but the 10 people on stage have to make the musical magic work for 90
minutes with a 15-minute intermission. And they do.
Yeah, we're glad we let our subscription lapse.  Jack Zink must be spinning like a top.

The Theatre at Arts Garage production of The Longing And The Short Of It plays through November 24, 2013.

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