Hostage Song

THE GREAT ESCAPISM Cheek tries to sing away her woes.

THE GREAT ESCAPISM Cheek tries to sing away her woes. Photograph: Samantha Marble

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Most musicals start as terrible ideas that turn out brilliant (or at least popular). A bunch of actors in catlike unitards warble in a garbage dump! A city charges exorbitant rates for its citizens to pee! Nineteenth-century German teens rock out! But probably no tuner in recent history—Fringe offerings included—has had as cringeworthy a premise as Hostage Song: Two terrified abductees (Thureen, Cheek) in an unspecified Middle Eastern country dispel the tension through power-pop ballads and anthems of rage and longing. A friend I ran into on the way to the Kraine said, “What a terrible title.” Maybe, but what a thrilling show.

Sure, it would be better if director Oliver Butler had a budget of half a mil, a first-rate sound system and a set designer like David Korins to create a perfect space at, say, the Vineyard or the Public, but this scrappy production is still foot-stomping, spine-tingling fun. Clay McLeod Chapman’s often chilling book explores the hostage situation from various perspectives: the victim, the wife, even the son who watches his father’s execution on his QuickTime Player. Avoiding both sentimentality and politics, the piece finds tremendous power in the raw psychological horror of waiting for death as you endure fear and try to connect with your fellow human.

Kyle Jarrow’s songs neatly knit standard rock motifs—underdog defiance, self-pity, the ache to transcend—to the emotional needs of the main characters. As portrayed by the excellent Cheek and Thureen, you never want to let them go.

—David Cote

Kraine Theater. Book by Clay McLeod Chapman. Music and lyrics by Kyle Jarrow. Dir. Oliver Butler. With Paul Thureen, Hanna Cheek. 1hr 20mins. No intermission.