“Fable” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closed on Sunday July 27, 2014)

July 27, 2014 | NY Musical Theatre | Tags:
“Fable” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014)
Music and Lyrics by Christopher Anselmo
Book by H. S. Kaufman
Directed and Choreographed by Jen Wineman
Reviewed by David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

All John (Dan Rosales) wants is to celebrate his 2014 high school graduation with close friends Chelsea (Gerianne Perez) and her brother Tucker (Alex Walton) and bound-for-Princeton Emmy (Marisa O’Donnell). Reading his post-graduation speech is all that is really on John’s agenda. Somehow college lacrosse star Richie (Michael Luwoye) is invited and interloper Amelia (Madison Micucci) breaks in through window and screen to add to the growing matrix of post-graduation melancholy. What begins as a simple celebration develops into group therapy spiced with an abundance of alcohol.

All this partying occurs in John’s parents’ New England suburban twentieth century colonial in the present. Unfortunately, the characters seem to have been transported from some earlier decade: they seem to lack the sophistication and weltanschauung of twenty-first century late teens. A necessary sense of worldliness is lacking in their characterizations and their conflicts – although identifiable – seem relatively simplistic. All they want is love and acceptance but appear not to have worked diligently to achieve those goals.

The book by H.S. Kaufman captures a bit of everything and too much of nothing, while exploring the thoughts and activities of six young adults at a graduation party, making it difficult to establish a cohesive structure. Characters rotate waiting to sing a song and tell their story. There is no form or arc so it tends to be flat and uninspired. The music however is inspired, although sometimes repetitious, and has a complicated rock feel, that should but fails to infuse the cast with the kinetic energy this piece needs. Part of this problem may be the direction and choreography by Jen Wineman. The lyrics are hit or miss, sometimes spot on for character delineation, but at other times miss the mark leaving cast members who are listening unsure and confused.

The cast is energetic and in fine vocal form. Characters unfortunately appear one dimensional, controlled by external circumstances rather than inner emotion, which may be induced by script and direction. The actors are young, talented and know their craft, but cannot transcend the inconsistent material.

Humankind – old and young alike – live by the mysteries of mythos and fable and cling to those constructs to order their lives and – clinging to their truth or falsehood – manage to separate and individuate and enter adulthood. “Fable” gives us a group of teens who seem to know what they want but do not quite know how to “get there.” This new musical is in its early stages of development and has the potential, with some judicious work, to serve as an authentic trope for the search for identity, love, and acceptance.