Thursday, January 5, 2012

On A Snooze Day: A Theater Review

I've been doing a lot of trips to the theater during my brief stay in New York, and I feel obligated to review everything I've seen.  But its really hard when a show is as simply boring as On A Clear Day You Can See Forever is.  It's the sleepiest show that I've ever seen that I didn't actually fall asleep during.  I'm going to try to organize my thoughts though.  Just in case you are the one person dying to see this.

The concept of this version of On A Clear Day centers around David (David Turner), a twenty-something florist who is good with flowers but bad with people.  He has trouble fully committing to his sweet boyfriend Warren (Drew Gehling) and eventually winds up trying to solve his problems through hypnosis with therapist Mark Bruckner (Harry Connick Jr).  Mark is a widower who has his own issues connecting with people.  Mark slowly finds himself mesmerized by Melinda (Jessie Mueller), the woman from a former life that David turns into under hypnosis.  Of course Mark's interest in Melinda makes David think he likes him, leading everyone to be in love with someone they can't have.  David finally learns why Mark has been so interested in their sessions and eventually returns to Warren, while Mark claims to have learned something from the whole ordeal (What?  I don't know) and is ready to finally move on.

I typically like director Michael Mayer a lot.  Thoroughly Modern Millie, Spring Awakening and American Idiot  are some of my favorite musicals.  I also respect trying to do something different with a piece of pre-existing theater.  In this case however, I'm not sure if was worth the while.  On A Clear Day was originally written with a female protagonist and while switching the gender so that the love triangle involves a gay man pining after a straight man pining after a dead woman makes things a little unique, it doesn't better or further the story.  I'm sure that as it was originally written, there was a thought in the audiences' mind that Mark may indeed end up with his patient.  Connick plays the role here so that Mark never doubts his own sexuality, not even after kissing David.  You never believe he has any interest in his subject other than him being  a vehicle for Melinda.  It's like how Demi Moore never acknowledges that she is really dancing with Whoopi Goldberg.  Knowing exactly how this has to end for everyone gives the whole thing absolutely no stakes.  I have no idea why we are supposed to care.

The characters don't make it any easier and the actors don't put all that much into playing them.  Harry Connick Jr. has that lovely voice, but he kind of seemed to be sleepwalking through the show.  Maybe that's because Mark is sleepwalking through life, but I never felt his love for Melinda, nor his remorse for what he had done at the end.  Turner fares even worse as David.  The character comes across as immature and selfish and when Mark later refers to him as charming and charismatic I was certain that he was watching a different play.  Mueller has a great voice and made Melinda likeable, but I could never quite warm to her character knowing she was a weird not real/dead hybrid.  Gehling was nice as the put upon boyfriend and I hear that he is a lovely person, so he gets props for that.  But truthfully, no amount of talent could make this show interesting.  The odds were stacked against them.

In my playbill Mayer talked about listening to the cast recording non stop growing up.  Why Michael, Why?!  The music in this show is incredibly dull.  The only song that had any punch was the final number; the title song.  It got stuck in my head for about five minutes before disappearing forever. (Side note:  What the hell do the lyrics in this song have to do with the show?  Is there any point to any of this?) The only thing worse than the music was the physical look of the production.  The sets and costumes were seventies to the max, but that bad burnt orange/brown/avocado look that people have been forcing out of their kitchens for years. It was eye torture.

I'm not really sure why On A Clear Day happened.  With so many struggling Off-Broadway productions dying to get some funding to make it to the big leagues, I'm a bit disappointed that a show like this gets to  make it.  But I guess it has its functions.  Insomniacs should flock to the show in droves.  I have a feeling it will provide a much needed, if not expensive, two hour nap.  If you're not interested in that, I recommend skipping this one.  Your eyes, ears and general sense of happiness with thank me.

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