Monday, July 26, 2010

Midtown International Theatre Festival

With so many theater festivals and outdoor Shakespeare, New Yorkers and tourists have plenty of options for summer theater. It can be overwhelming to keep track of everything and within each festival, it can be hard to narrow down what to see. The Midtown International Theatre Festival, now in its 11th year, offers 61 productions and free readings in eight genres (The Melting Pot, Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Off the Mortal Coil, The Art of the Con, Isn't It Bromantic?, Remember My Name, From the Pages of History, and GRRRL Power!). This weekend, I attended two of those shows--The Gospel According to Josh and Lovers: A Bold New Musical (an advantage to theater scheduling is that you can often make a day of it and knock out a bunch of shows at once)--both playing through August 1.

The Gospel According to Josh is Josh Rivedal's one-man show (directed by Josh Gaboian) about his religious Baptist upbringing and his desire to be a star. The conflict is a bit forced--in the first scene, Rivedal recalls being spanked with a belt by his father, but it was also his father who was largely responsible for Rivedal's love of music. With an easygoing voice and manner similar to Jeff Anderson who played Randal in Clerks and the ability to morph into various characters, Rivedal is an engaging performer and the 75 minutes fly by.

Lovers is a two-hander with book, music, and lyrics by Christopher Massimine and directed by Christopher M. Czyz. Chip (Will Taylor) has just killed himself and left a note and package for his girlfriend/fiance of 8 years, Jolie (Courtney Hammond). It's hard not to call to mind The Last Five Years while watching the story of their relationship unfold. According to his bio, Lovers is Massimine's first major production. He shows much promise as a songwriter, but there is still room for growth. Some of the lyrics are smart, but a few are cringeworthy. There are some moments of originality, such as the story of their courtship, but the mysterious package is an unnecessary gimmick. The intermission comes at a very awkward place (some audience members were confused as to whether the show had ended) and the show feels overlong at 2 hours, but with some work, it could have a future life.

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