If it wasn’t for my young friend Rachel Hock, the Artistic Associate of the theatre company “Liars & Believers” – (last year they were called “Performance Lab”) – I probably would not be traipsing down to the Boston Center for the Arts, where one is forced to pay a wad for parking because it is a public transportation black hole.
But I digress, Artistic Director Jason Slavick seems to enjoy taking classic texts and turn them into something you can dance to. Last year this company put on the very entertaining “Le Cabaret Grimm – a punk cabaret fairy tale (sans faires)” as their premiere production.
This season’s production is “Song of Songs: A Love Romp” based on the Biblical text. The development process of this theatre company is collaborative – they seem to build their cast and team first, throw in the fine compositions of Nathan Leigh and then all dive in with their youthful creativity. Slavick codifies and refines the work, and out comes the performance. This reminds me, in fact, of the process used by the British director Mike Leigh.
But I digress once more. Although this text is from a religious anthology (ie, the Bible), the musical is secular indeed – if love can be considered secular. An animated (and funny) young woman is talking on her cellphone to her best boy-pal about her crush on a guy at school (while her mother texts her from the living room to ask if she is doing her homework). An unexpected package arrives from the boy she likes and it is a record album called “Song of Songs.” She puts it on her phonograph and the music catapults her into a dream world of love.
First, two women work out their lover relationship. Then a straight man stomps through his romantic life. A playful guy uses a biblical-looking puppet to advance his advances. It is an opera of love, with interplay all around.
I wasn’t always certain of the narrative, not the least because the young woman at the center, the dreamer, is filled with a speechless angst and I was uncertain of the source. Her dream personality is very different than her lively excitement in the opening and closing scenes – when she finally gets together with her crush – that bracket the meat of the play.
The five young actors are each talented, skilled and appealing and their energy never flags. The score is fabulous. Dance intertwines with singing, all supported by an impressive four-piece band using guitar, cello, trumpet and percussion (not only drums, but a plastic suitcase, a typewriter and a box of elbow macaroni!) This is a fresh Boston company theatre lovers will want to keep an eye on. The show is playing until June 18th. More info here.