Now in its 27th year, the 13th Street Repertory Company has an admirable mission: to be an oasis where young, inexperienced artists can have the opportunity to hone their craft in a warm, supportive atmosphere. In theory, this is a wonderful idea, but in practice it can lead to questionable quality in both repertory and talent.
A case in point is their current production, Glory Road. Based on a promising idea by Jamie Heck, Greg Senf and Gregory Max's new musical endeavors to satirize what happens when ol' time religion meets cable television. Simple faith gets lost as a Baptist minister turned televangelist healer battles with his executive producer in a race for power, money, and ratings.
It is an idea ripe for satirizing that gets lost in all of the many ideas, plots, and themes running rampant in Glory Road, resulting in an evening woefully lacking in clarity and focus, completely soft-pedaling the unsentimental point of view that would have given the show some much-needed bite. Muddied with inconsistent dramaturgy and unlikable, contradictory characters, there is no apparent attempt to marry character motivations and plot advancement with dramatic musical structure or song placement. Greg Senf's book resolutely refuses to concentrate on a single through-line, totally unraveling in the second act as it struggles to tie all of the loose ends together in a denouement lifted from the film A Face In The Crowd. Inevitably, several plot lines are left unresolved or even forgotten in the rush to provide a tacked-on, none-too-convincing happy ending. As for the songs, composer Gregory Max, instead of mining the rich gospel/country western flavor so endemic to the Bible belt, settles for a weak early '70s pop sound that would not have been out of place on The Partridge Family, with lyrics that tend to repeat a song's title endlessly.
Cast with a group of actors vocally unsuited to the material and produced on a shoestring with almost no attention to detail, the listless production suffered from an appalling want of directorial vision. As staged by Robert Kreiss, the eight-member ensemble was left to contend with rudimentary blocking and frail choreography, nevertheless performing with vigor and conviction. Sets and lighting were minimal, though the costumes were plentiful, colorful, and generally on target.
Such a careless, slipshod production does a disservice to the venerable 13th Street Repertory Company. With Off-Off Broadway booming and competition from younger companies growing almost daily, the need to take a closer look at the repertory and talent they choose to nurture would seem to be called for. To quote that master of musicals, Stephen Sondheim: "Nice is different than good."
(Featuring Deirdre Brennan, A. Pierre Dubois, Lisa
Kerson, Camille Lorraine (substituting for Beth
Chiarelli), Tom O'Neill, Josy James Norton,
Aaron Rhyne, and Shawn G. Smith. Set Design by Tom
Harlan; lighting design by Jeff T. Carnell.)
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Copyright 1999 Doug DeVita