Postmodern karaoke

I Love Myself

Written and performed by John Tedeschi
Musical direction by Brenda Bush
Midtown International Theatre Festival
Raw Space Theatre M
529 W. 42nd St. (279-4200/
Equity showcase (closes July 30)
Review by John Chatterton

This one-man show about -- what else? -- narcissism is a refreshing venture into this navel-gazing genre. Tedeschi gently joshes himself, his audience's expectations, and pop-philosophical and -psychological cliches as he tours songs by such luminaries as Queen, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Marc Blitzstein, as well as less-familiar songs (like "I Love Me," written in 1922 by Jack Hoins and Will Mahoney).

The preshow music, Bach's Toccata in D Minor and chorale prelude "Sheep May Safely Graze," was more a setup for a Vincent Price movie, and Tedeschi's first costume (rubberized tunic and headband, purple cape) suggested more in the gothic vein, but the songs and their upbeat delivery soon strayed from this initial starting point. The music alternated discreet live accompaniment and karaoke-style recorded music, in which Tedeschi took advantage of the opportunity to engage in dialog with the backup singers.

Tedeschi's delivery was expert and droll, with an elusively dry subtextual spin. His message, if any, is enigmatic, unlike most of his colleagues. He didn't take the opportunity to get up and expatiate on his love/hate/ambivalence toward his audience, fortunately for them. Though if there is any fault in the writing, it is that the last number ("Time Warp," from The Rocky Horror Picture Show) didn't put a button on the evening -- it didn't have to be maudlin, cloying, or preachy, but there seemed to be a need for something.

Costumes (Sylvester Ceecon) were an eye-catching array of pop fantasy that gave Tedeschi a chance to practice a modest but athletic strip between numbers, accompanied by music or patter ("I don't know if the music is too long or the costumes are too short"). The lighting design (technical direction by Ann Robideaux and Nick Stavridis) took advantage of Hideaki Tsutsui's versatile rep. plot in the cozy black box. The sound design (Jeff Schacher), including the use of karaoke recordings and the alternation of live and recorded music, gave Tedeschi every opportunity to range the emotional scale.

This is the kind of show in which the audience (a medium-to-sparse night early in the festival) provides a lot of the energy. This show would be fun with a full and slightly libated house late on a Friday night.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Performing: 2
Sets: N/A
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2002 John Chatterton