Place: the cluttered garage of a falling-down house in a disintegrating city in the Rust Belt.
Scene: the cluttered minds of sibs Jesse and Molly from a fallen-down past of a disintegrating family.
Anchored by the electrifying performances of Max Sangerman and Brook Wood, “Spun” brims with the poison of all domestic dramas, no antidote in sight. Here are two 20-somethings dealing with the recent death of their father, the years-old suicide of their mother, failed artistic dreams, and estrangement from each other.
‘Spun: A Brother/ Sister Rock Musical’
WHERE: Adirondack Theatre Festival, 207 Glen St., Glens Falls
WHEN: Through Aug. 1
HOW MUCH: $45-$32
MORE INFO: 480-4878, or atfestival.org
As with all musicals, the numbers reveal character and advance storyline, and composer/lyricist Jeremy Schonfeld and writer Emily Goodson open the show with “Home (Again),” a duet that quickly sketches the hopes and disappointments each sibling has experienced. In their first bit of dialogue, Molly’s tough-girl attitude emerges: older brother Jesse left home one night and hasn’t been heard from in eight years; now he’s back. Why? She has taken care of the dying dad and the crumbling homestead, and she’s bitter — and quick with a snarky comment for self-protection.
Jesse is a needy, irresponsible, self-involved young musician whom we can admire only because he did take off when things became intolerable. And what we learn of this family confirms that apples don’t fall far from the tree — including the element of addiction.
The musical is in-your-face, but there are enough visual and verbal metaphors throughout — the title itself, fire, light/dark, boxes, doors — to keep us intellectually involved. The dialogue is most successful in the serious moments, when two people are actually talking seriously as two people would. It’s less successful when it achieves laughs through sit-com humor. In real life, when someone says something funny, other people laugh. Here, only the audience laughs. That tendency is apparent in the opening confrontation, and while it certainly doesn’t ruin the show, it diminishes some of the strength of the story/dialogue, elsewhere so involving.
And because this is a show still being tweaked, I’ll weigh in with a larger concern: the first half of Act II doesn’t advance the show. In its efforts to revisit the issue of what really happened and who remembers it correctly (and, by the way, we’re talking only about eight years), the show stalls. Duly noted that memory is faulty, but our concern by the end of Act I is not who is right but how they’re going to — if they are — reestablish their relationship.
The tech work by Shane Cinal, Lee Burckes, Darcy Parker Bruce, Jaehee Kim, and Jared Oberholtzer is first-rate. Schonfeld leads a hot, four-member band upstage that frequently interacts with the performers and the audience. And ATF chief Chad Rabinovitz directs this show with the same energy he delivered Friday night’s take-no-prisoners curtain speech.
Sangerman and Wood prowl the stage — she with a leg cast, the result of an accident in rehearsal, but she’s not slowed. They wail, shout, rock, scream — she’s Janis Joplin in spots, gloriously so — and they shake and howl in the service of their characters.
Singing actors? Acting singers? Yes! Goodson has created people we care about; Schonfeld has given them powers of raw expression; and Sangerman and Wood make them unforgettable.
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