Some people know a good thing when they see it. Still others have the means to share it with a broader audience. Thankfully, Paulette Haupt, after being inspired by a PBS theater broadcast, had the wisdom to create an opportunity for an intimate, unique, and thoroughly satisfying art form.
Haupt is the producing artistic director of Premieres, a theater company whose mission is to “bring new music theater to light.” Since 2008, the group has commissioned 20 playwrights and composers and presented four productions of 10 new works. Currently, some of those new works are showcased as 3 musical monologues at the off Broadway venue, TBG, and the result is pure delight. T. Oliver Reid stars in Just One Q, a story about an orderly, Benny, who works in a retirement home in the sixties south. He shares his experiences of caring for Bertha and Julynee, two individuals with rich history behind them. Reid lovingly imitates these elderly residents, who don’t have much going except a continuous game of scrabble. Ellen Fitzhugh lyrics, at times seem a bit elementary but Ted Shen’s consistently jazzy score keeps things moving at brisk pace. The life lessons here don’t reach the depths of profundity as other senior citizen tales (Driving Miss Daisy and The Trip to Bountiful come to mind). Still, Reid’s presence and pitch perfect singing voice make for an enjoyable 40 minute tale.
The Pen is perhaps the best piece of the three. Nancy Anderson is Laura, a Wisconsin native who is crippled with OCD. After finding a mysterious pen in her purse, she agonizes over where it came from, how long it has been there, and what else it may have touched. Dan Collins (words) and Julianne Wick Davis (music) turn this opening bit into a work of genius and it only improves from there. Anderson is marvelous as the neurotic pixie whose life in Milwaukee is far from the one she pictured when she left her home state.
Tales of dating have been told and re-told, rarely with anything new or interesting to impart. Saheem Ali (words) and Michael Thurber (music, words, and star) prove otherwise in the short work entitled The Booty Call. Thurber plays Gabe, a twenty-something aspiring composer who receives what he interprets as a booty call from a date he had the previous week. Ali and Thurber unlock the dilemma in Gabe’s mind with catchy hip-hop and sweet lyrics. Gabe is not the typical frat boy on the make, which makes the piece so rewarding. Thurber is a natural and we root for him from beginning to end.
Personally, I’m rooting for all three of these exceptional vignettes. Psycholologists will probably tell us (and I say probably because it’s speculative), that inner voices serve to disclose secrets that we might not share with the rest of the world for fear of embarrassment, guilt, or confrontation with others. They can also be pep talks, moving us to improved circumstances, more positive outlooks, and higher productivity. The latter chatter is definitely the stuff you’ll want to heed if you’re questioning whether to see Premieres’ Inner Voices. This external critics’ voice enthusiastically shouts, “Yes!”
Inner Voices runs through Oct 29th at TBG Theater (West 36th between 8th and 9th). For tickets and more information, visit: http://www.premieresnyc.org/