New York Review: CLOSER THAN EVER

 

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

 

After the rave reviews that followed opening night in June, York Theatre Company has extended its run of Closer Than Ever through September 30. And no wonder. The show, with lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. and music by David Shire, offers two dozen songs on a little, glitz-free stage, sung with charm and polish under Maltby’s own direction. Nobody is miked, there are no big dance numbers, no flashy costumes, no puppets, no flying.

There’s no plot, no book, although each song seems like a story in itself --with lyrics like smart, rhymed dialogue -- and the four singers provide some modest acting. Jacquelyn Piro Donovan, George Dvorsky, Julia Murney and Sal Viviano are all attractive people in early middle age, fit but not too shapely, nice if dated clothes but nothing you wouldn’t wear to work.  This is a very human show and the songs are filled with very human—and very middle aged—emotions, observations and insights.

The entertaining first act’s songs are all about relationships—lovers, husbands, wives coming and going, disappointments (“She Loves Me Not,” “You Wanna Be My Friend”) and awkward social situations (“Dating Again”), and secret pleasures all the more pleasurable for being hidden (“Miss Byrd”) and the lingering regret of  sacrificed thrills (“One of the Good Guys”).  It’s more wry than funny: gyms, feminist battles, hope for the future and the courage to meet it ( “Next Time” when “the stars will sing to me/The girl will cling to me”).

Act Two is far more melancholy, more about the past than the future, more about time passing. Friends change beyond recognition, parents die, kids grow up (“I wasn’t ready for the March of Time”), situations feel repetitious, and the familiar patterns are dangerously comforting.  All these clever, imaginative lyrics with the intriguing, off-kilter harmonics create a musical world of grownups being ironic, brave and a little bit sad and a little bit proud.

The singers are ably accompanied on piano by Andrew Gerle and on bass by Danny Weller.

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York Theatre Company at St. Peter’s 619 Lexington Ave (near 54th St). Tickets $67.50; students and seniors $

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