Len, Asleep in Vinyl
Wed Jun 4 2008
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
Everything that charms, and most of what works, in Carly Mensch’s slight intergenerational comedy is incidental to its central story—a mild tussle between a grizzled record producer, the aptly named Len Moody (Michael Cullen), and his wispy indie-rock-loving son, Max (Daniel Eric Gold). There’s the opening image of Len, for instance, wearing wraparound shades and half a tux, clinging to a handful of LP records for dear life on a ratty old couch in a woodsy den. Somehow this image, at once coiled and needy, makes us chuckle and wonder long after we find out its ostensible motivation: Len has come to his remote studio cabin directly after walking off the Grammy telecast midpresentation.
Presumably he’s disgusted by producing bubblegum pop for an oversexed airhead like Zoe (Megan Ferguson), who soon arrives to flutter about this pointedly male refuge. Presumably Len is also regretful about the way he treated his estranged wife, Isabelle (Leslie Lyles).
We have to presume a lot of this, because it’s not quite dramatized—even when it’s stated. Still, under Jackson Gay’s finely modulated direction, the play hums along on the strength of its well-observed riffs and tangents. Max first describes his band as “chamber pop,” amends that to “literate indie folk,” then adds an important qualifier: “Not twee, though. We’re really careful about not being twee.” Mensch has a sympathetic ear for the feints and evasions of our distracted, post-LP age, but her own aversion to appearing cute makes her skip the needle right over her characters’ emotional grooves.