How’s this for a “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show” variation? Three lonely guys get together one Valentine’s Day and play Franz Schubert’s sad song cycle, “Winterreise.”
Fun, huh? Actually, it is fun because the three clever guys behind — literally — "Three Pianos" use a Schubertiade as their model. Franz would invite his pals over. The wine would flow freely, the singing would hardly be professional, and a good time was had by all, despite the gloomy songs and the depressed poetic souls.
The trio –- Rick Burkhardt, Alec Duffy, and Dave Malloy — won an Obie for last year’s New York staging, which has been imported to the American Repertory Theater. When you enter the Loeb you’re given a choice of red wine or a nonalcoholic drink, which gets refilled during the course of the two hours as our guys irreverently move back and forth between the centuries, with a little German dourness here, a little boogie-woogie there and irony everywhere.
I have to say, though, that for all the cleverness that they display, the emotional content of Schubert’s music gets lost in their shuffle, at least until the final song, which is a bit late in the day. Malloy also argues that their less-than-operatic singing is a virtue, not a flaw. By the end of the night that proves to be a shallow argument.
Still, it’s a fun evening, as is the touring production of "La Cage aux Folles" at the Shubert Theatre. George Hamilton has always been something of a gay icon and here he’s kind of the straight, gay lover. He needs some oil in his joints in terms of his acting, but let’s give him a pass because the spirit of the show is so infectious and everybody else is so good. This might be the best touring show in Boston for the past year or so. The Jerry Herman score really holds up thanks to some superb ensemble work and Christopher Sieber’s first act showstopper, “I Am What I Am.”
We should also note a non-musical of interest to Bostonians, "The Friends of Eddie Coyle." George V. Higgins’s famed crime novel, set in the area, was made into quite a good film with Robert Mitchum, but writer Bill Doncaster had a different vision of Eddie, as more of a loser than he is in the Mitchum movie, and Paulo Branco does a fine job of realizing that.
Unfortunately, not all the acting is as good as Branco’s. In general, the actors are about as good as their accents which, in many cases, is not very good at all.
This “Eddie” isn’t really a play per se, but it does a nice job of translating Higgins to the stage and makes excellent use of the Oberon space, so the friends of “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” or those looking for an introduction to Higgins should take note.
This program aired on December 16, 2011.