Thursday, September 8, 2011

To Rent or Not To Rent By Beverly Creasey

Going to New Rep last night has me thinking about rentals. When you rent a tux you don’t know who’s rented it before you. You hope it’s been freshened up. You can’t be sure of the fit and you may need alterations.

I do know who’s worn Jonathan Larson’s RENT most recently. In the last year alone I’ve seen three productions. Alas, the New Rep’s RENT (playing through Sept. 25th) needs some alterations before it can go to the prom. Perhaps it was opening night jitters but more than one or two singers were way off key. Maybe they couldn’t hear the orchestra (which sometimes happens when a show is rehearsed with only piano accompaniment until the orchestra arrives on opening night). Some of the performers weren’t sure of their lines either, and some weren’t sure of their staging.

Some, like Aimee Doherty and Robin Long, were cooking. Their “Take Me or Leave Me” was surefooted, righteous and intense. Cheryl D. Singleton, too got lots of laughs as a foulmouthed homeless woman asleep on a stoop, none too pleased at being disturbed. The wacky phone messages were delivered amusingly but “urgency” was sorely missing from the main stage.

And what’s up with the nudity? Director Benjamin Evett evidently wanted something fresh in his rental but there was no dramatic reason (or effect that I could see). Perhaps he was trying for the soul’s transcendence at death??? Angel becoming an angel??? (Most artistic renderings of angels, though, aren’t nude, are they?). If the reason were clear, it might have been acceptable instead of awkward and embarrassing and just plain bizarre.

Back to the tux. You’d prefer the wrinkles to be already ironed out. Same with theater. Maybe they will be by the time the legions of RENT fans buy their tickets. C’est la vie or, rather c’est la Vie Boheme.