It’s difficult for source material to be taken seriously in a theatrical setting (or any setting for that matter), when a disco ball is present. It’s even more challenging for sincere points to be made when the costume designer shrouds the cast in sparkling silver bodysuits. To add insult to injury, the giddy Reynolds wrap clan jump around on stage, singing and dancing about the evils of individuality, backed by accompaniment tracks which sound like they were produced in a basement on a 1985 Casio keyboard.
This is The Anthem, a new off-Broadway musical which recently opened at the Lynn Redgrave Theater. The self-billed, “radical retelling of Ayn Rand’s classic novella” tells the story of dystopian leaders, Pandora (Jenna Leigh Green) and Tiberius (Randy Jones) who are hell-bent on criminalizing anyone with individual thought. It is a world where fashion is forbidden, books are bad and romance is wrong.
The Director, Rachel Klein, notes that she wanted to bring a feeling of Hunger Games and Xanadu to the piece. This would work if it a had a consistent tone. Yet it never finds it’s footing. If it is meant to be campy, it needs to be more pronounced. If drama is intended, it’s too over-the-top.
Metal poles on the corners of the stage allow for some impressive displays of athleticism by some incredibly competent cast members, but these do nothing to add to the story. It’s almost as if the director randomly said, “Hey! I feel like this show needs some circus acts”- and no one questioned it. Impressive? Yes! Relevant? Not really.
The theme of a repressive police state is by no means a new concept, but it can be extremely effective and haunting, as evidenced in Brooklyn by Theater for a New Audience’s current production of The Killer. Here however, reflections from the disco ball blind audiences to the fact that this show is just an irreparable mess.
The Anthem plays through July 6th at the Lynn Redgrave Theater, 45 Bleecker Street. For tickets, call 866-811-4111, ovationtix.com, or visit the box office. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.