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February House

1/5
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Public Theater. Music and Lyrics by Gabriel Kahane. Book by Seth Bockley. Dir. Davis McCallum. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 45mins. One intermission.
2/5
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Public Theater. Music and Lyrics by Gabriel Kahane. Book by Seth Bockley. Dir. Davis McCallum. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 45mins. One intermission.
3/5
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Public Theater. Music and Lyrics by Gabriel Kahane. Book by Seth Bockley. Dir. Davis McCallum. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 45mins. One intermission.
4/5
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Public Theater. Music and Lyrics by Gabriel Kahane. Book by Seth Bockley. Dir. Davis McCallum. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 45mins. One intermission.
5/5
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Public Theater. Music and Lyrics by Gabriel Kahane. Book by Seth Bockley. Dir. Davis McCallum. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 45mins. One intermission.

In 1940 and 1941, the gay book editor and bon vivant George Davis (Julian Fleisher) assembled some of the brightest young cultural lights of his day to share a Victorian boardinghouse in Brooklyn Heights. From this vaguely promising faucet, Gabriel Kahane and Seth Bockley have drawn a long, tepid bath of a musical called February House, which attempts to find drama in what appears to be have been a period of artistic inconsequence for almost all concerned.

The most appealing of the boarders, in this account, is the frail but gung ho Southern novelist Carson McCullers (a well-cast Kristen Sieh). Otherwise, these all-stars of the arts are a pretty dull lot. The poet W.H. Auden (Erik Lochtefeld) is a testy sad sack in romantic thrall to a college boy (A.J. Shively); the composer Benjamin Britten (Stanley Bahorek) and his lover, the singer Peter Pears (Ken Barnett), are fussy English ninnies; Erika Mann (Stephanie Hayes) is a husky-voiced German literary martinet; and the up-market stripper Gypsy Rose Lee (Kacie Sheik) is a braying, charmless hussy.

The rising composer Gabriel Kahane is at his best when setting Auden’s actual poetry to art-song music. His own lyrics, however, are curiously corny and awkward (“The house is freezing / And I am downright wheezing”), and Seth Bockley’s book can’t make a series of circumstances seem like events. To the extent that this enervating evening has a point, it appears to be about an emerging sense of gay cultural community: “Growing up gay in Clinton, Michigan / Every day I’d wish and wish again / For a place where I would belong,” sings George. It may be a sign of how far we have come that the same-sex content of this thumb-twiddling musical should seem, in itself, so unworthy of note.—Adam Feldman

Event phone: 212-539-8500
Event website: http://publictheater.org
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