Off-Broadway Review: “The Other Josh Cohen” at the Westside Theatre/Downstairs

Off-Broadway Review: “The Other Josh Cohen” at the Westside Theatre/Downstairs (Extended through Sunday April 28, 2019)
Book, Music and Lyrics by David Rossmer and Steve Rosen
Directed by Hunter Foster
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“The Other Josh Cohen,” currently running at the Westside Theatre/Downstairs, has been bemoaning the hapless and lackluster life of Josh Cohen (Steve Rosen) through his Doppelganger narrator Josh (David Rossmer) since October 2012. That’s a long time to celebrate having one’s apartment robbed of everything, rehearsing one’s dysfunctional family, recounting a string of failed romantic relationships, and resolving the mystery of a letter and check for a substantial sum of money – yet, audiences continue to cheer Josh on, apparently identifying with this fictional character’s “hard luck life” and his ability to overcome misfortune and re-create himself and his future.

Josh Cohen’s year long (Valentine’s Day to Valentine’s Day) struggle with the vicissitudes of life is chronicled in eleven musical numbers by an energetic and talented cast that not only sing but play a variety of instruments with consummate skill. The musical has an interesting book and relatable lyrics; however, the music seems very much the same except for a couple of numbers which thankfully vary in tempo and style. Director Hunter Foster moves the action along at breakneck speed despite some scenes seeming overlong and overwrought. There are only so many times one can reimagine scenes with a Neil Diamond CD (other than a daily cat calendar, one of the few things left by the robber) and an empty porn CD case.

The convention of the two Josh Cohens works well and the repartee between the two and emergence of one from the other also sustains interest. The musical’s themes of the need to “Hang On” and to embrace change are important and always timely. It just takes a bit too long to get to that resolution after an oft-repeated exposition about Josh’s life.

That said, “The Other Josh Cohen” continues to entertain and celebrate hope in uncertain and challenging times.