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Long Story Short

The New York premiere of this new rock-pop musical, based on David Schulner’s play, “An Infinite Ache,” is insightful, moving and joyful.

Pearl Sun and Bryce Ryness in a scene from “Long Story Short” (Photo credit: Michael Murphy)

Pearl Sun and Bryce Ryness in a scene from “Long Story Short” (Photo credit: Michael Murphy)

Stefan Woych, Critic

Does love provide the strength that keeps a marriage bound, or is love fragile and, when it wanes, the cause of the failures in a partnership? Maybe it’s both? The new musical Long Story Short, written and composed by Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda, adapted from David Schulner’s play An Infinite Ache, explores this quandary artfully. Skillfully directed by Kent Nicholson, this imaginative and fresh musical chronicles the ups and downs of a 50-year relationship between an Asian American woman and a Jewish American man. This aptly named 95-minute production poetically exposes the wonder and misery of a lifetime together.

Milburn and Vigoda lace Schulner’s rich story beautifully with melodies and lyrics that elicit both motif and emotion, often very poignant. This modern pop-rock musical invokes folklore and wisdom of the elders to tell the story of a challenged Marriage. Early on Hope (Pearl Sun), a cocky 27-year old who can’t hide her Asian looks while insisting that she is Californian, sings of a Chinese tale about “The Red String.” It tells that when you are born, the gods tie an invisible red string to your ankle and to the ankle of your soulmate. This string will help you bypass the erroneous love interests and lead you to the one you are destined to marry. Charles (Bryce Ryness) doesn’t necessarily look Jewish, but on the inside he is steeped in tradition. His small apartment’s few pieces of furniture have been passed down for three generations. He states that he will pass it on to his offspring. He sings, “in Hebrew school they teach you just because a match is made in heaven, doesn’t mean a marriage will be just a piece of cake.” Milburn and Vigoda’s ample book is masterfully concise.

Pearl Sun and Bryce Ryness in a scene from “Long Story Short” (Photo credit: Michael Murphy)

Pearl Sun and Bryce Ryness in a scene from “Long Story Short” (Photo credit: Michael Murphy)

Sun and Ryness do a splendid job aging 50 years without make-up or major costume changes. They both sing beautifully and do a stunning job filling their roles with nuance and a depth of emotion that gives the audience a rise, or reduces them to tears. Ryness does an excellent job starting as an awkward babbling youth to a sage yet palpably vulnerable old man. Sun is equally adept at growing from a selfish young lady to a loving grandmother.

The only shortcoming of this production is that the venue’s small theater does not supply the height, depth, or grandeur that this show rises to. Nicholson, however, in tandem with David L. Arsenault (scenic design), Kirche Leigh Zeile (costume design), Grant W. S. Yeager (lighting design), and Kevin Heard (sound design), like the text, fills the scenes and action with the appropriate requisites, choosing to show changes in time, emotion or age with the subtlest change in light/sound, furniture, or article of clothing; clearly marking the difference without upsetting the mood or pace.

Long Story Short, a Prospect Theater Company production, is a fascinating and gripping tale of legend, love, and the modern family.

Long Story Short (through March 29, 2015)

Prospect Theater Company

59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues in Manhattan

For tickets, call Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or go to http://www.59e59.org

Running time: 95 minutes with no intermission

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