By: Iris Wiener
A musical that gives the term "absurdist comedy" new, slightly incomprehensible meaning, Red Eye of Love is a forced piece that seems to have been nurtured in many creative minds- none of which found themselves collaborating in the same room. A hodgepodge of social and political satire, musical theatricality, and wildly bizarre fare, the new off-Broadway piece features too many
cogs moving out of sync.
Based on a 1961 play by Arnold Weinstein, Red Eye of Love has been a pet project of Tony-Award winning producer John Wulp (Dracula) for thirty years. After taking in a performance of what finally came to fruition at DiCapo Theater, one can’t help but question the play’s long-cultivated life. At its center is an eccentric romantic triangle in which Selma Chargesse (Alli Mauzey) must choose between a life laden with love, courtesy of Wilmer Flange (Josh Grisetti), and a life of wealth with looney meat-department store owner O.O. Martinas (Kevin Pariseau). On its outskirts is light fare muddled in its attempts at a deeper meaning.
Set against world wars, the depression, and incessant capitalism, Red Eye of Love‘s concept is rife with tongue-in-cheek humor. Characters explode into a song about escaping their problems through cinema ("I’m Going to the Movies"), moments later performing in a metaphorical "Meat Ballet", in which pigs don toe-shoes and cows have an amusing foray around the stage on their way to their own slaughter. Wulp and Weinstein’s book and lazy lyrics are unsatisfying, only partially made up for with Sam Davis’ enjoyable score (parlayed fruitfully with two lone baby-grands holding central court upstage).
Grisetti (Peter and the Starcatcher) and Mauzey (Wicked) are adept at their jobs, both suitably cast for their talent with physical comedy and timing. Though they’re not new to musical theater, it’s refreshing to see their sometimes operatic range on display in such a wide-ranging piece. Lainie Sakakura and Alex Sanchez’s choreography is creative and differentiates with the show’s ever-changing tone (see the stellar zoot-suit number "The Word on the Street".) Martha Bromelmeier’s costumes are reminiscent and classy (and affordably fun, as with the animal get-ups).
Given the material with which he had to maneuver, Ted Sperling’s direction is intriguing to say the least. With little set and minimal props, he moves the piece through whimsy and cleverly exaggerated reveals, such as Wilmer’s sick infatuation with inventing and selling realistic dolls. Sperling’s biggest misstep, however, is with the sluggish and forgettable song "Red Eye of Love", which, for all intents and purposes, should pack the most impact.
Red Eye of Love leaves you with a chewy taste in your mouth. Goofily pedestrian at best, the musical has nuggets of whimsy spattered among its flanks. Ultimately, for a show with so much meat, it certainly lacks substance.
Amas Musical Theatre at Dicapo Theatre
184 E 76th St, New York, NY 10021
Tickets: (212) 868-4444
Through September 28, 2014
Photo: Carol Rosegg
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