Theater review by Jenna Scherer. The Brick (see the Off-Off List). By Robert Honeywell. Dir. Leah Bonvissuto. With Moira Stone, Esther Crow, Rebecca Gray Davis. 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.
I’ll say this for Robert Honeywell’s ambitious, bizarre new rock musical: It isn’t boring. What it is, however, is messy, naive, overwrought and, occasionally, quite riveting. Written for an all-female cast, Mass transposes the charged friendship between Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin into a contemporary (well, make that near-future) lesbian relationship. So, yes, there is violence done to earlobes—and unintentional violence done to eardrums.
Mass follows painter Mary (Stone) and conceptualist Françoise (Crow) as they create, fight, make out and tease apart the true meaning of Art. Mary is passionate and unhinged, Françoise is cold and self-obsessed, and Mary’s art-dealer sister, Kate (Davis), is ruthlessly ambitious. We watch these three grow from idealistic young’uns trying to make it in New York to S&M weirdos doing some really freaky shit in Shanghai.
Honeywell’s script is a mixture of lurid, unnatural melodrama and canny bits of satire and intelligence. The musical aspect, alas, is dreadful: Characters sing conversations for no reason, and the more complete numbers sound only half-realized. It doesn’t help that the five-person chorus can’t really carry a tune. The best thing this production has going for it is Stone, a magnetic presence even in the worst moments. There’s genuine chemistry between her and Crow, which only highlights their romantic arc’s manufactured feel. There’s enough that’s interesting about Mass to not write it off completely; but that still doesn’t merit sitting through it.—Jenna Scherer