Richard West's concoction Bohemia on Wry was so misguided that it almost warrants a look. Really two separate one-acts - Beauty and the Beat and the musical Lifestyles of the Poor and Bohemian -the evening is an incoherent and headache-inducing homage to the bohemians of the '50s and '60s, with as much frantic energy as poor taste.
What were West and his long-time collaborator Lissa Moira trying to do? As a play, it has no action or character development. As an entertainment, it has flashes of wit, drowned out by poor dramaturgy and on-the-nose dialogue so ridiculous it induces laughter at it, not with it. Further, the music to Lifestyles of the Poor and Bohemian includes poorly changed lyrics to already existing songs. For instance, West changes "bonnie" in "Bring back my bonnie to me, to me!" to "brain cells." The lyric may echo an audience's sentiments after watching the evening.
As with any kind of homage, or even a spoof, if the author doesn't love the subject the play will suffer. Even if the author hates the subject, then the hate should be passionate. It's not clear who or what we are supposed to side with or even hate. It seems we are supposed to hate the landlord, Chad (Joshua Koehn), in Lifestyles, but West sets him up as the only character with any kind of intention - as a result, he becomes a breath of fresh air in the static affair. As well, in Beauty and the Beat, Dean (Jack Tynan) comes across more as a womanizer than as a free spirit. West's having Dean riff endlessly with bad beat poetry weakens any kind of sympathy for him.
The direction, by Lissa Moira, whose Time It Is was delicate and focused, seemed as incomprehensible as West's script. The high energy the actors gave to everything seemed a desperate move on Moira's part to overcompensate a lack of logic, action, and taste. The singing and choreography were at best off-key and at worst obnoxious. Hats off to the actors, who were attractive and committed and who deserved much, much better. Unfortunately, whatever talent was there seemed drowned out and no one seemed to register, except for Koehn, Susan Mitchell's much too brief scene as Dean's wife, and the simulated sex scene with Tynan and Jill M. Simon. At least the sex scene had something for the audience to focus on.
(Others in the cast: Danny Ashkenasi, Frank Craven, Julie Hamilton, Martina Lotun, Robert Madden, Lissa Moira, Eric R. Moreland, Daniel Passaro, Cynthia Savage, Crystal Scott, and Richard West)
The set, by Mark Marcant, left something to be desired; the lights and sound, by George Cameron, were merely adequate; and the uncredited costumes looked thrown together.
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