There is something to be said for starting a revolution. In the case of the new off-Broadway rock musical Revolution In the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter, the most obvious comment might be: “What in the holy name of Robert Redford is this show about?” Why Redford? Because his name is frequently evoked and a prayer is made to him by residents of Elbowville in this head scratcher of a show. Effective revolutions generally require a strong sense of organization and logic in order to thwart oppression or overthrow power. This one only demands a taste of irony and the ability to comprehend non sequitur jokes about lobstering and living in the physical space of someone’s elbow.
Press releases and “googling” suggest that our Elbowvillians are spinning a tale which reflects the Icelandic Financial Crisis. (It’s a good idea to have a bit of background going into this, so you can brace yourself for the oddities that await.) Here’s the gist: In this once serene place, a driven boy wonder, Peter (Merrick Smith) unveils a new “prosperity machine”, a contraption which produces money. What happens when the cash runs low? Simply turn on the machine and voila!- more monetary merriment abounds. In theory, it seems like the perfect utopia. Yet the dollar weakens and once the material possessions of homes and cars are purchased, there is no way to pay back the loans. Sound familiar? It should, as it paralleled the economic woes of our own Nation starting in 2008. A search was made high and low for a musical team to write Revolution In the Left Ventricle of Dick Cheney Devil Incarnate but no one had the heart to stage it. Sarcasm aside, there’s more to the story; as the perception of acquired wealth growths for the elbow inhabitants, they desire more and are led down the path of dalliance by the leaders of the town, Kolbein (Patrick Boll) and Manuela (Tony award winner Cady Huffman). And because everything but the dish and spoon are already crammed into this show, a Faustian-like character, Mandrake (Rick Faugno) also makes an appearance.
To be fair, the show has inexhaustible energy, exciting choreography by Lee Proud, and a driving, infectious score. Although some songs end with anti-climactic buttons and one wishes that composer Ivar Pall Jonnson would have taken them to a higher plane, for which he is certainly capable. For a rather confusing piece, this gifted cast makes the most of the material and generally, the show is often entertaining. It is certainly one of the more unique offerings to be staged in some time. Jonsson, a native of Iceland, also wrote the book and lyrics. It remains unclear exactly what his intended meaning might be. Perhaps the point is that we are all occasional victims of cosmic chaos and that there is little which is absolute? Who knows! In the early nineties, C&C Music Factory had a hit song called, “Things that Make you Go Hmmm.” Revolution In the Elbow… is one of those things.
Revolution In the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter is now playing off- Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theater, 18-22 Minetta Lane between Ave. of the Americas and Minetta Street. For tickets visit http://revolutionelbow.com.