Duets is a collection of three one-act musicals exploring the ups and downs of romantic love. Two actors, the boyishly handsome Jonny Price, and Bligh Voth, whose achingly lovely voice easily fills the small Clinic venue, play all the roles.
The best of the three musicals is clearly the show’s opening vignette, A Long Walk to Forever (written by Joshua Morgan and Brian Sutow and based on the short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.), in which Newt, a young army solider goes AWOL in order to visit his childhood friend and romantic interest, Catherine, before she gets married in a week. When he finds Catherine, Newt charmingly suggests that they take “a little walk” together which eventually leads to a rekindling of their adolescent love and a few stolen kisses along the way.
As a fan of traditional Broadway style musicals, I was drawn to A Long Walk because the songs are simply lovely and they beautifully showcase the strong, expressive voices of both Price and Voth. The romantic chemistry between both actors was a little lacking but the pure beauty of the songs and the exquisite vocals made up for that in spades. I found myself so engrossed in the music that I was sad to see this scene end.
The second vignette, Ex’s and O’s (written by Jonny Price and Andrew Wells Ryder), is billed as a humorous pop/R&B musical and it certainly made me laugh. It is a shocking departure from A Long Walk as Price trades his dapper army uniform for an oversized black t-shirt, sloppy jeans and scuffed sneakers. He is now Steven, a college student home on Thanksgiving break, who is planning a night of drinking (and hopefully hot sex) with his ex-girlfriend, Katie (Voth), a ballet dancer. The vignette opens with a funny duet where Steven is on the phone with his mother, who tells him not to go to Katie’s house because he will only get hurt by her rejection. Steven, in the fashion of all college-age men, ignores his mom’s sage advice and somewhat confidently heads to Katie’s house. Oddly, Katie’s opening part in this musical number suggests that she too is interested in performing various raunchy sex acts on Steven, but we later learn that she actually is not feeling well and is in fact dating a new guy. Maybe I missed something but I did not understand why she was singing about having sex with Steven when she ends up drinking only herbal tea and telling Steven not to kiss her. In his anger and jealousy, a drunk Steven sings a hilarious number railing against Katie for moving on from their six-month long-distance relationship so fast.
The vocals of both Price and Voth continued to impress (Price particularly shines as the rejected ex-boyfriend); however, I was disappointed by the prolific and seemingly unnecessary vulgarity of the lyrics. Sometimes less is more. The songs were very clever and funny and did not require the excessive use of swear words to make the point.
The final vignette, Go to Hell, Eugene! (written by Mark Halpern and Aaron Bliden) was a disappointment. Voth and Price do the best they can with this bizarre and irritating score but even their superior vocal chops cannot make this scene particularly enjoyable. Go to Hell takes place in the different levels of Dante’s Inferno. Price returns as Eugene, who has just died and wants to get to heaven to see his true love, Trixie (Voth). But apparently in order to get to heaven he must first meet various “sinners” from his past, including an elementary school classmate who once pooped in his backpack and Mrs. Katz, his 10th grade English teacher who took his virginity. The songs were difficult to understand which also made the plot confusing. However, my least favorite aspect of Go to Hell was the loud screeching/shrieking (courtesy of three very talented band members) each time Eugene took off a set of headphones he had to wear (and he took them off way too often). The screeching was too loud and grating, especially in such a small venue as The Clinic. Voth does a commendable job of portraying the various “sinners” from Eugene’s past (especially the sexy Mrs. Katz), but I did not enjoy the music or the lyrics and was disappointed that the night ended with this vignette, especially since the first two musicals were so enjoyable.
Please note: The Clinic venue is very small, located on a second floor and not air-conditioned. Although they have some fans blowing over the audience, be advised that you may end up just as red and sweaty as the actors on stage by the end of the show.
A Long Walk to Forever by Joshua Morgan and Brian Sutow
Ex’s and O’s by Jonny Price and Andrew Wells Ryder
Go to Hell, Eugene! by Mark Halpern and Aaron Bliden
Directed by Joshua Morgan
Conceived by Joshua Morgan and Brian Sutow
Produced by No Rules Theater Company
Reviewed by Sabrina C. Daly
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?