Thursday, March 31, 2016

"The Unfortunates" ☼ (generous)


Producers think reviewers are heartless. We are not. But we know we're in for a long evening of musical theater when:

(1) Someone's cellphone goes off in the middle of the tender ballad and the cellphone is the best song in the show.

(2) The story is incomprehensible. It has a lot to do with death. And the plague. And more death.

(3) The lyrics -- oh my. They are apparently written by a collective, according to the program notes. Here are two favorites that we managed to write down.

(a) "scrimmage," "finish" and "limit."

(b) "paper tiger" and "ready, aim, fire."

Most of the show sounds like this, by the way.

(4) They miss no opportunity to be trite. "Your fists are a prison you can't escape from." This from a woman with no arms to a man who is wearing Bluto-sized rubber fists and talking to ghosts.

5) The music. Either rap to rap music or sing old-timey songs to old-timey music. You cannot rap to old-timey music. Everybody cannot be Hamilton.

RATINGS ☼(generous)

We are pleased for the performers, who are putting their hearts into their work.  Same for the live band, a wonderful touch in our modern cost-cutting environment. Our problem is not with them but with whoever made the decision to feature this show. At best, it's Unfortunate.

That said: One Star for the three superior performers: Christopher Livingston as the short, big voiced lead and Jon Beavers as the tall, clowning lead. We also liked Ramiz Monsef as the Doctor. Ian Merrigan as Big Joe was an imposing stage presence but was given an impossible role - a cartoon figure who is supposed to be the romantic lead. Taylor Iman Jones as Rae is a fine actor, we have seen her excellent work in other shows. But even she could not save "The Unfortunates" from heading down, down, down to the infirmary.

"The Unfortunates"
A.C.T. Strand Theater
1127 Market Street, San Francisco
Through April 10

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