See the world through his eyes

New York Minutes

Conceived and Directed by Mark Finley
Music and Lyrics by John Wallowitch
Musical Direction by Ray Fellman
The Duplex Cabaret Theatre
61 Christopher Street
Equity Showcase (Closed)
Review by Byrne Harrison

In New York Minutes, Mark Finley uses the marvelous creations of songwriter John Wallowitch to summon a modern version of the swank and elegant New York of yesteryear. This is a Manhattan where well-dressed strangers pass the time by drinking martinis and entertaining one another with stories of love and life. Sure, these Manhattanites carry cell phones and make the occasional reference to Beyonce, but other than that, they are Cole Porter types at heart.

Finley has spun a simple story; three people are waiting at a bar - two of them old friends who’ve met there by chance, the third a stranger. One of the friends (Chris Weikel) is returning to the social scene, but is there alone. The other (Robert Locke) is a bon vivant; there, one imagines, to meet with friends. The stranger (Jolie Meshbesher) is a beautiful young lady, waiting for a lover who never arrives. While Wallowitch’s songs would have made for a wonderful evening’s entertainment unassisted, Finley’s story gives them a context and makes this a more theatrical and satisfying event.

The performers are outstanding. Weikel, in particular, shines throughout the show. His rich baritone voice is as suited for humorous songs (‘Cosmetic Surgery’) as it is for melancholy ones (the heartbreaking ‘I Live Alone Again’). In addition, he has a marvelous stage presence. Locke also has a good stage presence, coming across as a sly charmer, ready with a wink and a grin. His version of ‘Christmas is the Perfect Time,’ a cute little song about suicide, was very funny. Meshbesher, whose voice was a little weak compared to Weikel and Locke, does her best work in the comic numbers, especially in wickedly amusing ‘Dutch Ecology’ in which she wonders what it would be like to be a dike (the double entendres abound). The three actors have marvelous chemistry and work well with one another, as evidenced in the haunting ‘Manhattan Blue’. Musical director and pianist Ray Fellman’s sense of timing and beautiful playing help bring out the best in each of the performers.

The true star of this show, however, is John Wallowitch. His songs, and the sensibility that they express, make New York Minute a sumptuous delight.

Box Score:

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

Copyright 2006 Byrne Harrison

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