Monday, July 14, 2008

Perfect Harmony

Photo/Jim Baldassare

It's the worst kind of joke that only a few of the actors in Perfect Harmony can actually sing with the technical proficiency necessary for a capella. It's a shame, too: like the "dying duck" sound of the bassoon that Lassiter wants to artistically inject into his group, the Acafellas, this lack of musicality "contaminates the sound" of the show. Not that the comedy is pitch-perfect either: it's a little too "loosey" (and I don't mean slutty) and all over the place, which is about what you'd expect from a show that was written by and for the cast of the '06 Fringe production. Director Andrew Grosso, who has been with the show from the beginning, has squeezed square pegs into round holes as best he can (successfully with Clayton Apgar and decently with Sean Dugan).

The production shows signs of stretching in that the funniest moments are the smaller scenes and monologues that don't require such perfect harmony. Nisi Sturgis and Kathy Searle both struggle to blend with the female a capella group, The Ladies in Red, the former as a expletive-spouting klutz (who is vehement about not having Tourette's), and the latter as an ESL-singer who can't distinguish between "I travel the world/and the seven seas" and "It's the end of the world/and we're gonna freeze." But as Tobi McClintoch, an eccentric New Age voice coach ("You should have been told that if you came to me you could help you"), Sturgis is great, and Searle slays the audience as an excitable Kiki Tune, a cash-crazy "talent" scout. Even Vayu O'Donnell, who was in the original production, is at his best when his monologue devolves into a medley of depressed pop songs ("And I'm here to remind you/of the mess you made when you went away/And I'm never gonna dance again/guilty feet have got no rhythm/Just take a look at me now").

Grosso and company tackle a lot of issues, and without a cohesive melody, it's just a bunch of dissonant threads. Valerie (Margie Stokley, who originated the role, too) has confidence issues and can't stand being looked at, which should add to her sweet relationship with the nervous Simon (Mr. Dugan), and clash with the religious beliefs of Meghan (Amy Rutberg), who notes that "Jesus is always watching." It should also help to establish her brother's charisma, but J.B. (Scott Janes), despite being a central character, remains at a tangent. The best comedy requires the actors to feast, piranha-like, upon all the energy in the room. But with such flat notes, they end up savaging one another, quite missing the beat entirely.

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