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Red Eye of Love

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Alli Mauzey and Kevin Pariseau

in a scene from Red Eye of Love

(Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

Is it possible to have both money and love, or are the two mutually exclusive? Red Eye of Love, the nonsensical new musical currently playing at the Dicapo Theatre, attempts to answer this question. Based on experimental writer Arnold Weinstein’s 1961 play of the same title, the show offers comedic critiques of true love, wealth, war and capitalism in America. Unfortunately, Red Eye of Love‘s absurdist bells and whistles undermine these central themes.

Appropriately billed as a “Boy Meats Girl” story, Red Eye of Love follows an epic love triangle as the wildly successful, yet romantically vacant meat department store owner (yes, you read that correctly) O.O. Martinas and the down-on-his luck, sentimental idealist Wilmer Flange vie for the gorgeous, fickle Selma Chargesse’s affections. After falling in love with Wilmer at first sight, Selma leads the two men in a game of cat-and-mouse that stretches across The Roaring Twenties, The Great Depression, and World War II. Somehow, this fluffy, rollicking, pseudo-political comedy manages to cover so much ground while saying so little.

For what it’s worth, the adaptation’s source material enjoyed a long and successful premiere a half century ago at the Living Theater. Since then, this musical version has been marinating in the creative juices of Weinstein and the original production’s director John Wulp; the two are credited as co-book writers and co-lyricists for this incarnation. Additionally, Wulp’s personal friend Robert Indiana – the artist famous for his iconic “LOVE” statues – lends his talents as the production’s set designer. His industrial, pop-art backdrop pairs food and money, calling to mind the likes of his EAT and ART series at New York’s famed Four Seasons restaurant.

However, times change and not even current director Ted Sperling’s heartfelt, lively treatment can push the work into 21st Century relevance. Similarly, neither Lainie Sakakura and Alex Sanchez’s classic, tight choreography nor Martha Bromelmeier’s sharp costumes manage to charm the audience. Instead, the piece smothers us with paradoxical punch lines, absurd anachronisms, and gratuitous dance numbers about livestock.

Punctuating these moments of incoherence is Sam Davis’ refreshingly tuneful pastiche score that samples the likes of Scott Joplin, Jerome Kern and Kurt Weil. Masterfully orchestrated for dueling pianos, his melodies help pin down Weinstein’s frenetic, puzzling plot to a concrete time and place. Similarly, the insightful – if sometimes trite – lyrics do their best to make sense of the characters’ irrational actions. Song hooks such as “Hello, love, is all I want to say/Goodbye, love, is all I ever say” are the closest Red Eye of Love comes to establishing any emotional truth.

Alli Mauzey and Josh Grisetti

in a scene from Red Eye of Love

(Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

Likewise, Alli Mauzey – critically acclaimed for her performance as Lenora in the Broadway production of the short-lived Cry-Baby – imbues the vapid, shallow Selma with surprising depth. She performs the show’s eleven o’clock number and title song with flawless vocals and emotional power, revealing her character’s years of inner turmoil and indecision. Joining her are the equally charismatic, albeit less compelling, Josh Grisetti as Wilmer Flange and Kevin Pariseau as O.O. Martinas. Grisetti effortlessly soars across the vocal lines while Pariseau lands every punch line, but the two fall victim to the book’s superficial broad strokes.

Just as money and love seem to be separate entities, perhaps absurdism and considered critique cannot coexist in the same musical. Unfortunately, this piece of meat is more rump roast than filet mignon. Red Eye of Love serves up a feast of one-liners and toe tappers but ultimately leaves us feeling hungry for substance.

Red Eye of Love (through September 28, 2014)

Amas Musical Theatre

Dicapo Theatre, 184 East 76th Street, Manhattan

For tickets, call (212) 868-4444 or visit

Running time: two hours with one intermission

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