“City Love Song: Home” at 59E59 Theaters

January 11, 2013 | Off-Broadway | Tags:
“City Love Song: Home” at 59E59 Theater C (Closed January 20, 2013)
Written and Performed by Jack Finnegan
Directed by Tralen Doler
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Storyteller Jack Finnegan begins his travelogue with a rhetorical snapshot of a few minutes outside his building in New York City. This image, he claims, glorifies the interconnectedness of cultures and values extant in his neighborhood and reflects the common character of the people who love this urban home as much as he does. He uses this story as a springboard for his larger purpose; namely, to share for the third time his collection of anecdotes from his national and – this time – international travels.

In “City Love Song: Home” Jack Finnegan relates stories from his travels to Guatemala, to Brazil, to Casablanca, to Istanbul, and to New Delhi. In all of these places, his travelogue is meant to support his belief that we are all basically the same around the world and we need to be more fearless and more understanding when we interact with people in their cities — cities which they love as much as we love our own.

All of that sounds commendable. Unfortunately, the exercise fails to materialize and ultimately falls flat on the stage of Theater C at 59E59. Storytellers need to be persuasive and to properly use all of the relevant rhetorical strategies available to them. There were times when Finnegan pulls these strategies into his stories: there are appeals to ethos, pathos, even logos and there are tropes (imagery, figurative language, compare-contrast, negation, etc) but none of these gels into a cohesive, compelling, engaging performance.

Tralen Doler is given credit for directing Mr. Finnegan; however, there is little evidence of meaningful direction. Effective storytelling sometimes needs some mystery in its mix of tricks: there is nothing wrong with a bit of a fourth wall, or effective lighting, or a larger-than-life persona. Mr. Finnegan began the performance sitting in the audience and insisted in interacting with his guests; there was not one lighting cue and the entire evening unfolded in abrasive, annoying white light; and Mr. Finnegan was not enough the shaman who should lead his listeners into deep recesses of the mind.

If you are a Jack Finnegan fan, by all means enjoy this third part of his trilogy. However, do not do that on the recommendation of this review or this reviewer.