Six characters in search of an author

Inside out

Book by Doug Haverty
Music by Adryan Russ
Lyrics by Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ
Directed by Russell Maitland
T-N-T Productions
HERE Arts Center
145 6th Ave (212/868-4444)
Non union production (closes Nov. 9)
Review by Charles Battersby

Inside out premiered in 1989 under the title Roleplay and was later rewritten and re-titled. The rewrite was enough to get it into an Off-Broadway theatre in late1994, but only for three months.

The music and lyrics, by Haverty and Russ, are the focus of the show, with their book being so slight it might as well have not existed. The story is usually advanced through music, and there is little character development outside of the songs. Often they are doubled up with only a few lines spoken between them. Despite the rather insubstantial book, the music is excellent and uses a wide variety of styles, which range from beautiful ballads like "If You Really Loved Me" to a hip-hop parody, "Yo, Chlo." Unfortunately these songs are in a show whose plot creeps along very slowly and involves characters with poorly defined goals and little conflict. There is inner conflict aplenty, but it makes for tepid drama when the protagonist's only enemy is her own lack of self-confidence.

The story is about five women in group therapy. This pile of caricatures includes the Single Mother (Amie Duffy); the Career Gal (Michele Vasquez); the Frustrated Housewife (Rebecca J. Harris); the Lesbian, a flaky new-age neo-hippie (Natalie Laster-Jones); and of course their therapist (Elise Gainer). Standing out slightly from the others is a washed-up pop starlet, Dena (Julia Cook). The scene structure involves jumping from one group-therapy session to the next, with only a handful of scenes set anywhere else. The whiplash-fast transitions often make it difficult to determine the time frame of the play, so the book's sparse dialog is heavily devoted to such exposition.

With a musical so heavily slanted toward the music, it was no surprise that the cast were all great singers. Natalie Laster-Jones nailed her big number "I Don't Say Anything," and Julia Cook was hysterically hip-hoppy in "Yo, Chlo." The acting (and casting) were less successful than the singing. The Therapist's psychobabble often came out stiff, and many members of the cast were simply too young for their roles. A woman talking about her choice between her career in the corporate world and her growing family sounds silly if she looks barely old enough to have an MBA. The cast frequently came across as girls discussing the problems of women.

The set (Robert Lavagno) was essentially just six chairs, though it was changed into a flashy cabaret for the finale (in an excruciatingly long set/costume change). Even on an Off-Off Broadway stage the set seemed too small, and the simple choreography by director Russell Maitland didn't quite fill the stage either. Maitland (obviously aware of this limitation) moved his six chairs to a different part of the stage for each scene, but a feeling of emptiness was almost always present.

It must be stressed that Adryan Russ's music is excellent, as are Russ and Haverty's lyrics. If the weak book and simple production values can be overlooked, Inside Out makes a musically entertaining excursion into the minds of five crazy women.

Acting: 1

Directing: 1

Music: 2

Lyrics: 2

Book: 1

Costumes: 1

Set: 1

Lighting/ Sound: 1


  Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Charles Battersby