Although this staging of John Becker’s well written musical has its moments of brilliance, it suffers from one endemic problem: a generally inexperienced cast.
Based on Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, the plot follows the posh family of the terminally ill Mr. Tanner (Phil Hosford), whose dying wish is that his son, the commitment-averse Jack (Jared Calhoun), marry Ann (Sarah Welsh), Jack’s childhood sweetheart. In avoiding the inevitable, he riles up almost everyone around him, from his best friend Octavius (Sam Game) to his brother Hector (David Tuttle). The only man left unscathed is the house handyman, Striker (Tucker Bacon), who languishes about their lavish house.
Jack is supposed to be your typical ‘Broken Jerk’, a man whose actions and/or opinions are inexcusable, but whom you still inexplicably support – think David Duchovny’s Hank from Californication. You are meant to empathize with him as he fights his inner demons. Unfortunately, Calhoun’s interpretation makes him generically unlikeable, allowing for little compassion. Other than the like-minded Striker, it’s hard to understand why those around him would ever give him the time of day, let alone fall in love with him.
by John Becker
at Lang – Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Details and tickets
There were also numerous staging issues. Actors speaking in profile to the audience were a constant occurrence, sometimes even turning away from the audience entirely. The musical numbers have the potential to be quite a bit of fun, but the comedy only works if the audience can clearly hear all the words, and volume was an issue. This is a shame, as each of these performers have amazing voices. When coaxed by the emotional energy of the material it was clear that they had the skill and talent to fill the space, but needed more time to work with the space. On opening night, the last act was especially difficult to understand.
That being said, there were some stellar performances. Most of the laughs in this show were provided by David Tuttle’s Hector. His seamless comic timing, strong character, grounded stage presence, and Lang-filling voice served to lift the show up to the level Mr. Becker must have surely envisioned. The back-and-forth between Hector and Laura O’Brien’s hilariously feisty Violet (Octavius’ sister) provide strong moments of humorous interplay. Lastly, Sam Game manages to make the stuck-up Octavius both relatable and interesting to watch, dampened only slightly by some of the aforementioned staging issues.
The musical itself holds much potential. Now that it’s had its first production, Mr. Becker should continue to shop it around.