[Best Imitation], written by Jeremy F. Richter, is a musical with an odd assortment of plot twists and songs that fail to define any purpose behind the existence of the show. The musical opens with Jeremy F. Richter, as the character “Me”, walking through an apartment door in the middle of the stage. His cell phone rings constantly because the other cast members, all sitting on overturned shiny black tubs along the edges of the stage, are clearly trying to get in touch with him. He angrily ignores the phone, takes off his sweater and sits down at an electric piano to play the show’s first song, “Noticed (Underscore).”
As Richter plays, Jared (Ethan Treutle), walks through the same door, puts on the discarded argyle sweater and starts to listen to his cell phone messages as the cast launches into the first song “New Year’s Eve Voicemail.” From this number, we learn that Jared’s fiancée Kari (Liz Pollack) has cheated on him with Aaron (Matthew Lightfoot), a bi-sexual who self-identifies as a gay man, on New Year’s Eve. Apparently, this is not Kari’s first time cheating on Jared, who is hanging out in a bar with his good friend Landon (Josh Meredith), a gay man who does not seem to know that he is gay even though everyone else around him does. Meanwhile, Landon is having difficulty getting a testy bartender, Rene (Helene Waldemarson), to serve him an Amstel Light.
In an attempt to explain why she slept with Aaron, Kari, Jared and Aaron sing “Blame,” in which Kari tells Jared that she cheated because he does not pay enough attention to her. Pollack’s clear voice is a stand-out as she, Treutle, and Lightfoot harmonize in this pleasant song. In his shock, Jared walks outside of the bar and stands on the sidewalk, where he runs into Rene who is getting off of work. They talk uncomfortably with Richter’s uncreative dialogue then decide to go for a walk together, while Landon, Kari and Jared sing the brief “Unnoticed.” The song, which showcases Meredith’s nice, clear voice, has beautiful harmony but ends rather abruptly.
After Aaron tells Kari that he is actually gay, Kari runs out of his apartment and sings to Jared’s voicemail, “Sad, Like Me,” a dull, forgettable song. “I will carry on alone,” Kari promises angrily, which seems odd since her cheating is the reason they break up. In a bizarre moment, Kari then hands her cell phone to Richter, who takes it and in return gives her a small black handgun that was laying on the piano.
After talking and flirting together, Jared and Rene argue about why they are taking a walk together. Jared tries to call Kari while Rene, angry, sings “Weirdoes,” with Jared, Landon, Kari and Aaron. The show concludes with all of the characters confronting each other on the sidewalk. They sing the ensemble song “Feedback” and Kari delivers what you might call the ultimate Feedback to the group.
Richter is clearly a talented musician and composer but the opening left me confused as to whether he is actually part of the cast or if he is the show’s accompanist. From reading the program, it turns out that the show originated in September 2006 as a one-man show with presumably Richter as the sole lead. According to the liner notes, the show has been revised since 2006, but perhaps Richter cannot seem to write himself completely out of the show’s cast of characters?
The cast members have generally good voices and do the best they can out with the uncreative, stiff dialogue and the inconsistent songs. I frequently found the acting to be over dramatized, especially Meredith’s portrayal of the in-the-closet Landon. The show’s absurd ending was also a complete disappointment because it gave the impression that Richter did not know how to end the show. Instead, it’s absurdity caused a few audience members to burst into laughter. I highly doubt that Richter intended that moment to be comedic and hope he will explore other, more realistic options for ending the show.
Written by Jeremy F. Richter
Produced by Independent Theater Collective
Reviewed by Sabrina C. Daly
Running time: 75 minutes
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Did you see the show? What did you think?