Thu Nov 1 2007
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
In Crossing Brooklyn, a young teacher's inability to let go of the past threatens her marriage. What distinguishes this tender yet inert world-premiere musical from other domestic dramas is the fact that Des (Jenny Fellner) had to evacuate her first-grade class from Ground Zero on September 11. As Des's school reopens the following spring, she endures panic attacks and post-traumatic stress, barely able to leave her apartment, let alone the Brooklyn neighborhood where she spends her days volunteer-gardening in Prospect Park. Her loyal and loving teacher husband, A.J. (the ardent, charismatic Bryce Ryness), misses the vibrant woman she used to be and ponders moving on.
Director Jack Cummings III delivers an artfully conceived production, using only cast members, ropes and scenic designer Sandra Goldmark's schoolroom desks for set pieces. Jenny Giering's score abounds with haunting, wistful ballads—tunes of hope and longing that sometimes blur together. So much of Des's conflict is internal, and her character so passive, that Laura Harrington's book and lyrics lack dramatic urgency. Des's breakthrough number, "First Grade," has sharp edges, but other moments—her encounter with a homeless veteran (Clayton Dean Smith)—feel contrived.
Attempting to convey without sentimentality the pain and stagnancy of life in such trying times is a praiseworthy feat, but the full emotional impact of these characters' struggles gets muted in the process.—Diane Snyder