Off-Broadway Review: “Normativity” at the New York Musical Festival at the Pearl Theatre Company

Off-Broadway Review: “Normativity” at the New York Musical Festival at the Pearl Theatre Company (Closed Sunday July 24, 2016)
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Jaime Jarrett
Directed by Mia Walker
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“It’s not always the way it is in plays. Not all faggots bump themselves off at the end of the story!” –                                                          Michael in “The Boys in the Band” by Mart Crowley (1968)

It must be said that it is refreshing to find a young, talented member of the LGBTQ community using their voice to bring awareness to a valid concern regarding the depiction or treatment of Gay characters found in today’s literature, film and television. “Normativity,” a new musical by Jaime Jarrett (they/them), exposes the “Bury Your Gays” trope and tries to combat the issue, using a clever (although not new) concept for a storyline. The interspersed musical numbers which are more analytical and introspective do not always serve to move the plot forward as much as exposing a character’s feelings. Also there needs to be more of a balance in the controversy, illuminating the positive strides that have already been made, in order to validate the current battle and need for this specific change. To eradicate the entire LGBTQ literary cannon because of negative depiction, would be destroying history and diminishing the past valiant efforts of our Stonewall forefathers and those before them.

The book may be the trying to cover too much territory and could benefit from a keener focus on the subject at hand, the need for more positive gay role models in all literary mediums. The music many times seems to exhibit repetitive style and tempo. The lyrics although revealing sometimes feel too intellectual then emotional. The talented cast puts forth an energy that almost conquers the lack of emotional content but most characters remain two dimensional. This production deftly directed by Mia Walker moves at a steady pace and she is able to accentuate the important categorical issues. Michael’s line quoted above form “Boys in the Band” sums up why this is an important project that needs to continue to development and make changes in order to become a more powerful message to make changes.