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Off-Broadway Review: The New Group’s “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” in The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center (Through Sunday March 22, 2020)

Off-Broadway Review: The New Group’s “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” in The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center (Through Sunday March 22, 2020)
Book by Jonathan Marc Sherman
Music by Duncan Sheik
Lyrics by Duncan Sheik and Amanda Green
Directed by Scott Elliott
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The question that remains in my mind is why anyone would attempt to create a musical based on the dated 1969 motion picture “BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE?” Granted the meant to be comedy written by Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker for the big screen ventured into uncharted territory with infidelity, the sexual revolution and wife swapping making it a critical and financial success. To be blunt the subject matter is no longer relevant in the present socio-political atmosphere and might have been shocking during that time but seems ridiculous and silly in this current environment. The book by Jonathan Marc Sherman sticks too closely to the original screenplay with no attempt to update or bring the situation into the twenty first century, which results in a slow, dull, and predictable production. Music by Duncan Sheik takes on a sixties soft-rock vibe reminiscent of a Las Vegas lounge lizard and invokes no excitement into the less than titillating production. Lyrics by Amanda Green and Mr. Sheik seemed forced and sometimes inessential.

The plot follows Bob (Joel Perez) and his wife Carol (Jennifer Damiani) to a weekend seminar, which was part of the Human Potential Movement in the late sixties, where they experience an awakening and need to become open, honest and true to themselves. This leads to Bob admitting he had sex with a co-worker and in response Carol has sex with the country club tennis pro. They announce their newfound freedom to Ted (Michael Zegan) and Alice (Ana Nogueira) who are at first appalled until Ted decides to have sex with a co-worker during a weekend work convention. Alice is left out of the infidelity loop until on a trip to Las Vegas they all decide to bed down together and explore their sexual inhibitions. The enlightenment of learning that they would rather be with their respectable partner is predictable and insipid failing to produce comedy or drama.

The overqualified and talented cast are left high and dry as they desperately try to develop any resemblance to a character. To be honest it would not have made any difference even if you knew their life history. They could be anybody, doing anything, at any time and it would be of no consequence. Identified as Band Leader, singer songwriter Suzanne Vega also acts as narrator, speaking the roles of many different characters that are needed to exemplify particular scenes while also delivering many of the musical numbers accompanied by the cast. This approach does nothing to further engage the audience in the proceedings and seems to be on par with audience members being chosen to assist the cast in certain scenes.

Director Scott Elliot along with his collaborative creative team seem a bit confused as to what they were trying to accomplish turning this fifty-year-old extraneous comedy into a musical. It lacks the usual polish audiences have come to expect from Mr. Elliot’s work. It is laden with actors in stereotypical costumes reminiscent of the late sixties (by Jeff Mahsie), moving modular furniture set pieces (by Derek McLane) around the stage to change the setting, while smoking far too many cigarettes. There is nothing else to do. Perhaps there should have been an effort to modernize the story, maybe producing a sequel with the characters in their seventies or even “Alice” now being “Alex.” As it stands now you might be better off staying home and watching the movie but then again on second thought unless you lived during the sixties you might want to skip it.

BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE

“Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” features Jennifer Damiano, Ana Nogueira, Joél Pérez, and Michael Zegen, joined by Jamie Mohamdein and Suzanne Vega.

This production includes Scenic Design by Derek McLane, Costume Design by Jeff Mahshie, Lighting Design by Jeff Croiter and Sound Design by Jessica Paz. Orchestrations by Duncan Sheik. Music Supervision, Vocal Arrangements and Additional Orchestrations by Jason Hart. Music Coordinator is Antoine Silverman. Consultant is Jill Mazursky. Casting is by Telsey + Company, Rachel Hoffman CSA. Production Stage Manager is Valerie A. Peterson.

The New Group’s “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” in The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center through Sunday March 22, 2020 on the following performance schedule: Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Please visit TheNewGroup.org for full schedule and detail. Running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Michael Zegen, Jennifer Damiano, Joél Pérez, and Ana Nogueira in The New Group’s “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.” Credit: Monique Carboni.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Saturday, February 8, 2020