Between Scylla and Asbury Park

The New Jersey Trapezoid

Book, music, and lyrics by Tom Kleh
Directed and choreographed by Jeff Edgerton
Musical direction by Linda Dowdell
Felton Productions, LLC
Theater Three
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by John Chatterton

The New Jersey Trapezoid is set near a dangerous part of the ocean, similar to the Bermuda Triangle, near the Jersey Shore (just East of Asbury Park, to be precise). The story begins with industrialist Horace T. Calthrop (Jeff Farber), surrounded by a gang of corporate henchmen, scouting locations for a pirate theme park. Surprise! A real pirate ship from 200 years ago appears, sent through time by the trickery of the New Jersey Trapezoid, and Calthrop and his crew become prisoners.

The pirates, as stage pirates will, are not exactly threatening. Capt. Quick (David Weitzer) pines for his lost love, Lady Everdown, who is shipping out to the Carolinas to get married; he considers a brief fling with one of the 21st-century people, Amy Slocum (Rachael Bell), who with her boyfriend, Craig Weatherby (Mick Bleyer), was plucked from the beach by the time-traveling ship, but his heart belongs to Lady Everdown (femme fatale Erin Williams). Calthrop has been having an affair with his assistant, Sylvia Bratwaller (Jeanne Tinker), who wants to get a raise to reflect all the creative energy she puts into scheming with Calthrop. The real evil engine driving the Calthrop empire, though, is Jerry Conway (Tim Douglas Jensen), who has plans to make a local family diner sell their land to Calthrop so the theme park can become a reality. All works out in the end for Calthrop, Capt. Quick, Lady Everdown, and the diner dynasty, as one would expect in such a piece. (The switch when Calthrop finally realizes what a creep Conway is, and changes for the better, was implausible to say the least.)

The attractive cast showed energy and good humor in this lightweight vehicle. Farber was all leading man, and led with an engaging, mature persona and strong voice. Tinker, as Bratwaller, had a fine voice with operatic qualities. Bell and Bleyer, as the beach couple, were winsome, though Bleyer's voice was not quite up to the material. Jensen, as the evil VP Conway, was appropriately melodramatic. Brett Essenter was Calthrop's right-hand man Joseph Liffley, too self-effacing and intelligent to compete with Conway. All in all, the corporate chorus were reminiscent of the cast of The Office. The pirate chorus comprised Alberto Jose Fernandez as Dick Grunyon, Jamal Wilson as Samuel Jarvis, Matthew Trombetta as Silas Budge, Edward Anthony as Josephus Patch (with an eyepatch, natch), and Logan Lipton as the distraught Eggman, so called because he went crazy from subsisting on turtle eggs while cast away. Wilson, as Jarvis, especially stood out, with his fierceness and flashing eyes. If anyone could be typecast as a pirate, it was he.

The singing was more than up to the material, which alternated in style between old-fashioned musical comedy (appropriate to the story) and G&S (for the pirates). It was a pleasure to hear solid harmonies and counterpoint. The director used strong stage pictures, which were eroded by weak movements and deliberate upstaging. The accompaniment was piano (played on a tinny instrument by musical director Linda Dowdell) and luscious percussion (Don Boyle). The choreography, though mostly not the focus of the show, included at least one inspired soft-shoe group number.

The set was mostly a bare stage with a cyclorama (without enough colors on it to be very effective). The moment at which the pirates converted it from the Jersey Shore to a pirate ship, however, was outstanding, and the thunder effects were startlingly loud and clear.

The New Jersey Trapezoid, while it has an engaging premise, has a hokey book and unoriginal music, however well-performed it might have been. Originality isn't everything, but unfortunately in the theatre it's hard to do without it.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1/Musical direction: 2
Acting: 1/Singing: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting 1/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2004 John Chatterton