Entertainment » Theatre

Glee Club

by Jonathan Leaf
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Mar 13, 2010
Glee Club

How lucky we are to have frankly immoral plays about morbidly unhappy people like Blue Coyote Theater's current production, Glee Club!

Running under an hour, the show is often witty, consistently well-paced, superbly acted and directed and sardonically amusing.

It's also contrived, factitious, deeply offensive and premised on the more than merely questionable notion that we should blithely laugh at the wavering sobriety of a degenerate alcoholic who desperately wants to get off the literal and metaphorical floor of life.

But perhaps this is quibbling.

After all, it isn't only the world that's full of people in need of twelve-step programs. It's also the theater. Somehow the theater must get over its addiction to the pretentious and artless modernist dreck produced by critics' pet playwrights like Sam Shepard, Charles Mee and Suzan-Lori Parks. Do we really need more characters on the stage whose motivations are beyond our ken, dramatic personalities fitted within plots beyond our comprehension?


An excellent ensemble
The cast of Glee Club.  

An excellent ensemble

Glee Club’s playwright Matthew Freeman is quite unabashedly offering us a readily understandable and artfully constructed farce. Yes, it is also mean-spirited and misanthropic, and its characters are two-dimensional. But he succeeds in making us laugh. And as La Rochefoucauld said: "We all have the strength to endure the misfortune of others."

The tale, which is appealingly brief, is of a glee club composed of middle-aged losers in rural Vermont. Freeman has some sympathy for these failures but little or no respect - and he asks us not to offer them any either.

The dramatist’s quest to ensnare us in his cantankerous frolics is aided by his fine director Kyle Ancowitz, who keeps matters hurtling ahead, and by his excellent ensemble. All of the actors in this all-male cast are excellent, but especially worthy of praise are composer Stephen Speights in the showy role of the chorus director, Carter Jackson as a hypochondriac and Steven Burns as a demented prison parolee. Also notable is the song that the group is trying to rehearse throughout the show. Called "The World Will Make You Smile" and credited to company co-founder Speights, the outwardly bright and cheery tune includes such lyrics as:

So I went for a ride to Abingdon Square,
Among the baby carriages a man was sitting there.
And rocking his pram,
He shouted out, "Good Goddamn! Could someone tell me
How a hot Au Pair and perfect Hamptons share became my blowback
To the rot of deep despair, an analyst, and pounds of Prozac?
Turn around, you foolish clown, and hasten your repair
From Abingdon Square."


I won’t give away Mr. Freeman’s surprises, but I will say this: his producing theater company, Blue Coyote, is also the group that discovered that delightfully witty - and not necessarily insubstantial - gay dramatist David Johnston a few seasons back. So maybe it’s not such a surprise that they’ve succeeded again.

Glee Club continues through Saturday, April 3 at Access Theater at 380 Broadway at the Corner of White Street. For more information visit the Blue Coyote Theater website.


Jonathan Leaf is a playwright and journalist living in New York.


Comments

  • , 2010-03-18 10:07:13

    Right you are. David Johnston isn’t insubstantial by necessity. It’s a choice.


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