Rebecca Luker bursts through the door of a New York City apartment instantly commanding attention. She is griping about an annoying bus ride caused by an obnoxiously crying child in Scaffolding that’s set in the present. Ms. Luker’s renowned sunniness has brightened many Broadway shows and here she has a role of great depth that over 40-minutes showcases her immense comedic and dramatic talents.
Her tirade incites her to tell us about her son Kevin who would never behave that way. We learn that she is a single mother who is a teacher. She was formerly an actress and a tryst with a German drummer during a European tour of Hair led to Kevin’s birth. Luker is heartbreaking in recounting the conflicts caused by the now college-aged Kevin being on the autism spectrum. Her indelible emotional outpourings include portraying him as the piece reaches its wistful conclusion.
As his own lyricist, Jeff Blumenkrantz’s affective narrative has momentum, true to life specificity and the words are crafted into distinct song-like sections. His soaring music has an enticing contemporary musical theater sound. Victoria Clark’s expressive and focused direction adds visual variety in addition to shaping Luker’s tremendous performance.
The Costume is tender Americana taking place in suburban 1954. 10-year-old Leo is in his room that’s adorned with model airplanes, dinosaurs and a lit-up globe on a bookcase. It’s the night before Halloween and he hasn’t been inspired to pick a costume. His father was killed in action before his birth in W.W. II and his fragile mother has her “spells.” He is sensitive and withdrawn.
While riding his bike he encounters a neighbor who has found an injured pigeon and she enlists him to help her care for it. After putting it in a shoe box he brings it to his room where he nurses it. This becomes a transformative experience.
The magnetic child performer Finn Douglas is amazing as Leo. Mr. Douglas’ animation, range and likeability are joyous as for 45-minutes he beautifully conveys the pain of growing up in troubled circumstances.
Daniel Zaitchik’s warm scenario is darker Jean Shepherd-style nostalgia that is thoroughly moving. His enchanting music veers from folksy to dreamy. The Costume is staged by director Noah Himmelstein with bristling simplicity.
Writer Deborah Zoe Laufer goes for Comden & Green New York City sophistication with her Window Treatment that has composer Daniel Green’s buoyant music. There are traces of wit in this tale of an unhinged female doctor spying on neighbors with binoculars à la Rear Window, recalling disastrous dates and shopping for lasagna at Fairway. However, it lacks clarity and doesn’t quite cohere. It’s also hampered by its performer.
The personable Farah Alvin deserves great credit for her stamina during 45-minutes of virtual non-stop singing but she doesn’t possess the requisite exuberant comic qualities to put the show over. The results are more operatic than antic. Portia Krieger’s solid direction isn’t able to counter the prevalent flatness.
The same production team is responsible for each presentation. Scenic designer Reid Thompson has assembled a compendium of basic though evocative furnishings with atmospheric flourishes. Aaron Spivey’s lighting design represents the varying moods of each piece with virtuosity. The Costume best showcases costume designer Brooke Cohen Brown’s imaginative contributions. The musical direction by Benji Goldsmith for Scaffolding, Deborah Abramson for The Costume and Paul Masse for Window Treatment are all accomplished.
With its two successful portions that enact enthralling stories containing superior performances, this incarnation of Inner Voices 2018 is a uniquely entertaining experience.
Inner Voices 2018 (through November 17, 2018)
The TBG Mainstage Theatre, 312 West 36th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.premieresnyc.org
Running time: two hours and 30 minutes with two intermissions