I'm hard pressed to explain why I liked this show, because seeing it reaffirmed what I have long suspected. I don't like rock.
I don't mean rock and roll. I mean rock. I think it takes a certain kind of metabolism to understand lyrics that are yelled or screamed into a mic at about the same decibel level as the guitar and bass and keyboard and drums and horns and something that sounds like a subway car hemorrhaging. I am not made of such stuff.
So why like a rock musical when I thought Spring Awakening was so very, very boring? First of all – and I suspect the authors will cringe at this – it was charming. It's a charming story of love conquering all.
The field conquered is the cellar-band world of the 1970s. But the date doesn't matter so much, which is good, because the sets and costumes don't place us anywhere in time. Short skirts and black jeans are fairly timeless here in New York.
Two bands, one female, one male, each swear off romantic relationships because relationships get in the way of making music. Each band comes up with the same rule: sleep with someone three times, then move on. And one by one, each band member breaks the rule. See what I mean? Charming.
Not only do they fall in love, they play their asses off while they’re doing it. While the plot is fairly predictable, and most of the acting not above average, the music is key. The bands alternate performing, backing up the opposing team, and just sort of jamming. The transitions are nearly seamless – and ain't it great to see men and women jamming together just for the hell of it!
There was enough music of interest to me, and from the reaction of the rest of the audience – who appeared to understand the lyrics I did not – all the music rocked. There was also some very clever dialogue. Some of the funniest occurred during the love scenes, which felt so vulnerable and hilarious that I started to care about the characters – always a good sign.
The very funniest writing was for the "fill-in" roles played so well by Kim Gatewood and DeBargo Sanyal. From rejected lovers to music producers, they provide the framework in which the multi-layered love story blossoms.
You can't beat the price. You can't beat the enthusiasm and devotion to the work that electrifies all these performers. And you can’t beat this New York Music Theatre Festival. Over 100 new works (not all musicals) in 30 days. If this show is any example, you could close your eyes and pick any show and not be disappointed. The performance schedule requires some studying, but it's worth it. Check it out.
New York Musical Theatre Festival and Courthouse Repertory present Love Sucks: a Punk Rock Musical – Book and Lyrics by Stephen O'Rourke, Music and Lyrics by Brandon Patton, Directed by Andrew Goldberg.
With: Kim Gatewood, Rebecca Hart, Caryn Havlik, Robert Andrew Marnell, Athena Reich, Andrew M. Ross, Heather Robb, Nicholas Webber, and Jason Wooten. Sets by Shoko Kambara, lights by Aaron Spivey, sound by Ken Travis, costumes by Amelia Dombrowski. Through Oct. 6 at the Julia Miles Theatre, 424 W. 55 St. between 9th and 10th Aves. Tickets $20.00. Call (212) 352-3101 or reserve tickets online.