Monday, March 25, 2013

QUICK TAKE REVIEW BRAIN POWER at Moonbox By Beverly Creasey

Moonbox is one of those bright, new companies on the scene whose work is so satisfying that you look forward to their next production. And they set themselves apart with a mission to connect communities to the nonprofit organizations that serve them. Last time they introduced the audience to a teen empowerment program. This time out, they’re sponsoring an alliance between schools and local farms. Fresh veggies and fruits in the cafeterias and prosperity for local growers: What could be better!

Their last production, OF MICE AND MEN, was exceptional, as this one, A NEW BRAIN, will be once they correct a sound imbalance. What I heard, I loved but some of the lyrics were drowned out by the orchestra at full volume. As long as they played pianissimo, you could make out William Finn’s fabulous lyrics and you don’t want to miss one cheeky word of A NEW BRAIN (playing at the BCA through next week).

Director Allison Olivia Choat (an up-and-comer) has a stellar cast to inhabit Finn and James Lapine’s “wacky world of children’s television meets life and death surgery.” Poor Gordon Schwinn (a winning Tom Shoemaker). He toils day and night writing songs for a demanding frog (the funny Matthew Zahnzinger) until he swoons into his salad, at lunch with gal pal Rhoda (the luminous Shonna Cirone). Finn writes what he knows, having survived an arterio-venous malformation himself.

Gordon is off to surgery, sending his mother (the inimitable Shana Dirik) into a tizzy (and a couple of sensational songs), not to mention the worry his lover (the handsome Ross E. Brown) is in for. Comic turns abound: David Carney is a maniacal surgeon, followed closely by Peter Mill as a goofy man of the cloth, not to mention the formidable nurses. Allison Russell is a powerhouse of efficiency and Aaron Michael Ray is “the good nurse” who delivers on the hilarious “Poor, Unsuccessful and Fat.” Lori L’Italien rounds out the cast as the homeless lady who wants “Change.” Rachel Bertone choreographs the ensemble (and some versatile chairs).

Once music director Dan Rodriguez and company figure out where the dead spots are, A NEW BRAIN will be grooving. It’s not brain surgery. Well, maybe it is brain surgery – but I’ll bet they can fix it.