Theater review by Adam Feldman. York Theatre Company (Off Broadway). By Mark Nadler. Music and lyrics by various writers. Dir. David Schweizer. 1hr 45mins. One intermission.
Where ivories are concerned, Mark Nadler tends to favor the slap over the tickle. In some past outings, the adroit singer-pianist has banged the box so hard that one expected the piano strings to pop out in surrender. But Nadler’s multilingual theatrical cabaret show, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, finds him in an unusually reflective and self-revealing mode. Not that he has given up on showmanship, or drifted into the confessional mode that weighs down many a lesser set; the autobiographical elements of his show are artfully integrated into an entertaining and thoughtful survey of Weimar-era music—and a few of its cousins—that finds plenty of room for Nadler’s crackerjack pianism and perceptive interpretation. (His excellent account of Brecht and Weill’s “Bilbao Song” bursts with saloon-style vigor.)
Yet Nadler’s showbiz suavity is tempered here by an undercurrent of isolation that jibes well with his subject. Discussion of the outsider status of many prominent artists of pre-Nazi Germany—many of them gay, Jewish or both—is juxtaposed with details from his own history as an entertainer; ably directed by David Schweizer, I’m a Stranger Here Myself places Nadler in front of a projected montage of imagery that includes historical photos from the 1920s as well as gently evocative film clips from the Iowa-born performer’s early years in New York. “I don’t know who I belong to,” he sings, in a recurring motif. “I believe I belong to myself, all alone.” This is the crux and paradox of Nadler’s show: As he explores ways of sharing himself, he stays nothing if not self-possessed.—Adam Feldman
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