Off-Broadway Review: “Insomnia” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at WorkShop Theater’s Main Stage

Off-Broadway Review: “Insomnia” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at WorkShop Theater’s Main Stage Theater (Closed Sunday August 7, 2016)
Music and Lyrics by Charles Bloom
Book by Theodore Wolf
Directed by Ovi Vargas
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The new musical “Insomnia” played as part of the Midtown International Theater Festival. It is complicated, enjoyable and derivative, some of which might contribute to a possible successful future. The music and lyrics by Charles Bloom are like a collision between Sondheim and Finn, a beneficial “marriage” contributing to the progress of the production at this developmental stage. Screenwriter Brad cannot sleep and decides to write a screenplay about his dilemma. The musical’s creators have written a wonderful mindscape, shuttling the audience between reality and fantasy, conscious thought and subconscious angst.

The book by Theodore Wolf is less effective and certainly can use an overhaul. Perhaps the most derivative aspect of the show is the direction and choreography by Ovi Vargas which at times resembles a gay version of “Company.” The storyline is less complicated than the sum of its parts. There needs to be a constant for the insomniac in order to delineate his actions between reality and illusion. It is uncertain where the blame lies when it comes to the weak chemistry between actors in certain scenes and situations but it results in flat characters with little or no emotional substance. One needs to care more for these “friends and family” of the protagonist Brad.

The cast is a bit uneven, by no fault of their own, and this concern might possibly be credited to either casting or direction or both. Jesse Manocherian embodies the character of Brad with a strong commitment and great integrity. He provides an infectious charm with pliable emotions in tune with his scattered thoughts and situations, completely supported by his strong, clear, tireless baritenor vocals. He is a joy to watch and hear. Anette Michelle Sanders gives a colorful portrayal of the washed up “B” movie star landlady Sylvia Sylver. Philip Skinner provides an admirable performance as boyfriend Dan but needs to establish more chemistry with his beau. Lauren Lukacek is delightful as Linda juggling her emotions with proficiency while establishing a very authentic, contemporary character. The remainder of the supporting cast includes Chris Brick, Dennis Holland, and Tyler Milliron, who do what they can with the material given.

This new musical, even at this current incarnation provides an enjoyable evening of entertainment. Hopefully the creative team with continue working and this project develops into a vital part of the New York theater scene.