Saturday, December 27, 2014

New York Review: CLOSER THAN EVER

New York Review: CLOSER THAN EVER

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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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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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