West Side Story at Lamb’s Players
West Side Story. “Here come the Jets like a bat out of hell, someone gets in our way, someone don’t feel so well!”
Lamb’s Players excellent show has enjoyed an extended run with good reason: Collen Kollar Smith’s choreography, with Jets and Sharks bounding, skidding, and flopping all over the stage, ranks among the year’s best; director Deborah Gilmour Smyth, music director Patrick Marion’s nine-member band, and a crack ensemble cast honor the stark, life or death quality of the iconic piece.
Some musicals have such a pull that, even if you think you know them by heart, they still stir fresh emotions. Underpinned by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, propelled relentlessly forward by Leonard Bernstein’s terrific score, and taken in by Tony (Kevin Hafso-Koppman) and Maria’s (Olivia Hernandez) youthful, blazing love, it’s tempting to hope that, maybe this time — or maybe just this one evening! — their tragedy will end differently.
Parlour Song. New playwright in town, Jez Butterworth. Brand new company too, Backyard Renaissance. Both make impressive debuts. Francis Gercke and wife Jessica John Gercke promise an “art to the gut” sensibility.
Although the title sounds like a snoozer (I still haven’t figured out how middle-class, drawing room music, popular in the 19th century, fits the story, since the play isn’t a musical or in any sense parlour-y), the 90-minute comedy-drama digs into itself — and the title? — before our eyes.
One key is the words Ned, Joy, and Dale use. Ned, for example, blows up buildings. Dale says he’d love to get his hands on a thousand tons of TNT and Ka-boom! Yeah, people talk like that all the time — to boast or blow off steam. So he’s kidding, right? Maybe early in the play, but later?
What someone says in an innocuous moment becomes a key to the character later on.
Parlour Song’s also a mystery. Why is Ned losing possessions right and left? Sure he’s a hoarder, and compulsive at that. So how can he lose obvious essentials and quirky mementoes, a few too heavy for one person to move, since he’s locked them away?
Joy — whose name grows increasingly ironic — may be the culprit. Or Dale, who might have eyes for Joy. Or Ned’s insomniac brain, which has him up all night, and which he might be losing.
Butterworth’s play feels like updated Harold Pinter. Things in middle-class England haven’t changed since Pinter came on the scene over 50 years ago. Okay maybe one thing: change itself has become even more fearsome.