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Neurosis

Witty and clever new musical gets inside the heads of two people having job and relationship problems and puts this unlikely couple together in a delightfully breezy way.

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Joel Blum, Morgan Weed, Jennifer Blood, Kevin Zak, Brennan Caldwell and Susan J. Jacks in a scene from the new musical “Neurosis” (Photo credit: Jenny Anderson)

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

In the summer doldrums, in what movie buffs call the silly season, it is a pleasure to come across a witty, clever new musical with a relatable theme. Neurosis, with a smart book including an inventive twist by Allan Rice, witty lyrics by Greg Edwards, bouncy, catchy music by Ben Green and snappy direction by Andy Sandberg, is a vastly entertaining show about two losers in love, Abby (Jennifer Blood), a successful but workaholic marketing executive who has a penchant for inappropriate guys, and Frank (Kevin Zak), a failed magician, who hasn’t found himself in his late twenties and still goes home to his mother for dinner and laundry.

The clever invention is that each of them has a best friend who only they can see and hear: Neurosis (Brennan Caldwell) is Frank’s best buddy, a more cautious, nervous version of Frank, and Neurosalina (Morgan Weed) is Abby’s neurosis, a mean girl who Abby can’t get out of her head. Both of them need help but are not getting it from their neuroses who are always giving them bad advice and are stopping them from moving on. The show is bookended by musical advice from Samantha (Lacretta), a therapist, who takes on the task of freeing Frank from his problems: his overbearing Jewish mother Geri (Susan J. Jacks), his “underbearing” father Kenny (Joel Blum), his low self-esteem, and his lack of poise around women.

Susan J. Jacks, Kevin Zak and Joel Blum in a scene from the new musical “Neurosis” (Photo credit: Jenny Anderson)

When Frank is fired from his job at a magic shop, Amazing Larry’s, he goes into therapy with Samantha who doesn’t think he is ready to commit to change. Just then as Abby breaks up with her live-in boyfriend Kurt and she gets an offer of a better job in Peoria, she and Neurosalina run into Frank and Neurosis. Abby and Frank immediately fall for each other (she is now looking for a Jewish boy) but with his mother’s meddling, and Neurosis and Neurosalina pulling them in opposite directions, what are two newly in love people to do?

Edwards’ clever lyrics and Green’s catchy melodies reach their climax in the “Meet- the-Parents Tango” in which at their first dinner, Abby and Geri compete for Frank in a sensational dance number choreographed by Shea Sullivan. The rest of the score is not quite as memorable but such numbers as “Boyfriend-Girlfriend,” sung by the quartet of Abby, Frank and their neuroses, is good fun as is “A Mother’s Advice” in which Frank’s parents kvell over the joys of having a son as a lawyer. “Well, Goodnight” is a cynical ballad sung by Neurosis and Neurosalina, while “You Are My Neurosis” is a poignant song of friendship between Frank and his buddy. Neurosalina vamps her way through “You Got What It Takes,” a paean to making the most of your assets.

Both Jennifer Blood and Kevin Zak are quite charming as Abby and Frank but in different ways. Blood makes the most of her conflict between work and pleasure, while Zak revels in his obsession over relating to other people. Brennan Caldwell and Morgan Weed make an interesting contrast as the hero and heroine’s neuroses. Caldwell always stays with the easier decision, while Weed is a cynical bad girl with an acid tongue.

Lacretta and cast of the new musical “Neurosis” (Photo credit: Jenny Anderson)

Stereotypes notwithstanding, Susan J. Jacks steals her every scene as the confident Jewish mother who has the perfect retort for everything, while Joel Blum as her husband is the perfect foil. As the psychiatrist, Lacretta is offstage most of the time, but brings a rich, throaty voice to her musical numbers and gets a good deal of mileage out her unorthodox comebacks in her sessions with Frank and Neurosis. Ian Michael Stuart demonstrates his versatility playing the seven small roles that fill out the cast.

Charlie Corcoran’s unit set cunningly stands in for all of the show’s many settings with the addition of a few pieces of furniture and the help of Jake DeGroot’s atmospheric lighting. While Michael McDonald’s costumes do not provide the characters a big wardrobe, they do define them instantly. David Aaron Brown’s musical direction gives Green’s score an excellent reading. The excellent sound design by David Sanderson never gets in the way of hearing Edwards’ lyrics, a lost art these days.

Neurosis, subtitled “A Musical That Gets In Your Head,” is never deep or analytical but that is part of its fun. As directed by Andy Sandberg, this is a delightfully breezy musical comedy that is both diverting and inventive. What more could anyone want on a hot summer evening out?

Neurosis  (through October 21, 2018)

DR2 Theatre, Union Square, 103 E. 15th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets call Ticketmaster at 800-653-8000 or visit http://www.NeurosisTheMusical.com

Running time: one hour and 50 minutes with one intermission

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (525 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

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