The world is ending at Signature Theatre. Not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with a song. In Soon, a world premiere musical from writer/composer Nick Blaemire, we are faced with the threat of untimely demise. And remarkably, it’s a good time.
We know that people are fascinated by their own extinction because, at least at the individual level, it’s something none of us can escape. So, then, what do you do when you know that time is excruciatingly, extraordinarily limited? A young woman (Jessica Herschberg) watches those around her cope as she puzzles over her own answer.
Some—like her roommate Steven (Joshua Morgan)—hop the next Jitney to the Hamptons and indulge in a bacchanal of sex and drugs. Some—like mother Adrienne (Natascia Diaz)— booze it up and reminisce about her glory days in a different New York, when working at a coffee shop in the Village was the pinnacle of youthful exuberance.
For twentysomething Charlotte—that’s ‘Charlie’ to friends; ‘Chuck’ if you’re family—the diminishing timeline carries with it an emotional paralysis. And where the three other characters in this play are bursting with energy and adventure, she refuses to so much as leave her apartment. She hasn’t gone to her bakery job in a month, despite evidence scattered throughout her kitchen that she loves to bake. She met her sort-of boyfriend, Jonah (Alex Brightman), because he was delivering her groceries. The threat of not living is already keeping her from her life.
Nick Blaemire, known to the dedicated theatregoer as Glory Days writer/composer and Godspell revival star, fuses the ordinary and the extraordinary in this new musical. Under Matthew Gardiner’s direction, the production offers innovative visual interest throughout, with large-scale projections cast over the impeccably detailed set and staging that utilizes the small area of Signature’s ARK space.
At turns poignant psychology and rollicking humor, Soon has us in one moment lamenting the absence of peanut butter and in the next, grappling with questions of purpose and meaning. A crucial turn, about three quarters of the way in, brings the piece back from speculative fiction genre and into something even more biting, gritty, and real. And it works. The musical places us squarely at the nexus of the existential and the everyday, asking us to navigate both the meaningful and the mundane without being totally overtaken by one or the other. It is a show full of bittersweet smiles and belly laughs.
And, of course, music. Here too, we see the breadth of ground covered by the play, leaping from “When the World Ends” to “Bar Mitzvah for the First Jewish Fish” (regrettably, the goldfish playing Herschel—who we can only assume is non-Equity—was not credited in the program). Each of Blaemire’s songs extends organically from its scene, catchy and well-suited to each moment. And, as could go without saying in a Signature show, each of the four performers have the vocal chops to make the songs resonate.
March 10 – April 26
4200 Campbell Avenue
1 hour, 30 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $39 – $70
Wednesdays thru Sundays
Details and Tickets
Under Gardiner’s direction, the four-person ensemble does an outstanding job of bringing these four incredibly nuanced characters to life. As Steven, Joshua Morgan offers great depth to the play’s most comedic role, with a standout scene that moves from over-the-top drunken physical comedy to a sensitive moment about the fragility of life as he blurts a bit of information he wasn’t meant to share. Diaz gives us one of the more complex characters as Charlie’s mother—a fun-loving former hippie who, it turns out, reacts very poorly in times of crisis. Brightman’s Jonah vacillates deftly between patience and frustration, with a perfect subtle edge to his singing voice. And Hershberg is astoundingly likeable as Charlie, despite the character’s best efforts to put us off. Let’s face it, couch-bound characters could be tough to appreciate, but she has our hearts from the first scene.
A quirky new musical with depth, complexity, and heart, Soon has landed on stage at just the right time.
SOON . Book, Music and Lyrics Nick Blaemire . Directed by Matthew Gardiner . Featuring Alex Brightman, Natascia Diaz, Jessica Hershberg and Joshua Morgan .Orchestrator & Arrangements: Charlie Rosen . Music Director and Conductor: Darius Smith .Scenic Design: Daniel Conway .Lighting Design: Brian Tovar .Costume Design: Frank Labovitz . Sound Design: Lane Elms .Projection Design: Matthew Haber . Production Stage Manager: John Keith Hall . Produced by Signature Theatre . Reviewed by Jennifer Clements.