This Ain't No Disco
Time Out says
Theater review by Adam Feldman
Now is the winter of our discotheques made hopelessly dumber by This Ain’t No Disco. Created by Stephen Trask (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Peter Yanowitz (the Wallflowers) and Rick Elice (Jersey Boys), this misbegotten musical traces two characters—if that word can be used for Frankenstein-monster composites—in the waning heyday of the late-’70s superscene Studio 54. Chad (Peter LaPrade) is a comely teenage busboy in whom the club’s lecherous and coked-up owner, Steve Rubell (played by Theo Stockman as a cross between Roy Cohn and a pimple), takes an incestuous fatherly interest: “I want you to know me / I want you to blow me.” When Chad inherits money, he is pitched as a graffiti-art star by Binky (a game Chilina Kennedy), described in the script as a “pushy Jewish publicist.” Meanwhile, the Artist (Will Connolly), who has every marker of Andy Warhol but for some reason is not called Andy Warhol, takes an interest in Sammy (Samantha Marie Ware), a black poet and single mom who wears a man’s hat and is described as a punk but marketed as a rock star but has a modern pop–R&B Broadway voice. In This Ain’t No Disco’s world of mashed-up clichés, this is what passes for authentic. Binky: “You’re completely beguiled by that punk on a budget.” The Artist: “She’s totally real, there’s no way she could fudge it.”
Later, Sammy is given diet pills, becomes addicted to diet pills and overdoses on diet pills—this happens in the span of four scenes—while Chad loses everything and returns to hustling in motels. (“I’m out here on the lamb [sic] / All alone and desolated,” he sings, illiterately.) Happily, their queer friends (Krystina Alabado and Lulu Fall), who are artists and lovers and coat-checkers at Studio 54, are there to soften their landings and also to rhyme “Baryshnikov’s coat” with “He won’t fuck a goat.”
Darko Tresnjak’s production adds to the sense of fiasco with Camille A. Brown’s busy but formless choreography and Jason Sherwood’s you-are-nowhere set, which at one point wobbles scarily when someone dances on it, providing the show’s single moment of genuine suspense. The cast is attractive and the music has drive, but every good thing about the show is strangled by inanities. One can only marvel at the fact that This Ain’t No Disco made it past the Atlantic Theater Company’s velvet rope. If Rubell and Warhol aren’t rolling in their graves, they surely are rolling their eyes.
Atlantic Theater Company (Off Broadway). Music and lyrics by Stephen Trask and Peter Yanowitz. Book by Trask, Yanowitz and Rick Elice. Directed by Darko Tresnjak. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.