Don’t suffer in silence


Music and lyrics by Jesse Cooper
Concept and book by Jesse Cooper and Scott Brush
Additional music and arrangements by Jimi K. Bones
Equity showcase (closes Aug. 6)
Midtown International Theatre Festival
Smash Studios, 307 W. 36th St, 18th fl. (; 212/868-4444)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Penny-4-Eyes is a fun, self-affirming rock concert. With a dynamite cast, it is like Hedwig and the Angry Inch for teenage girls.

There isn’t really a plot to the show; Penny has recently tried to kill herself. She brings her mother onstage to vent her frustrations with her lifestyle -- constant boozing, sleeping with many different guys, etc. It is a cry of anguish for both mother and daughter as they confront each other with their frustrations via rock songs.

The rock songs were loud; hence the audience gets much-appreciated earplugs at the start of the show. Although they were pretty generic rock and started to sound similar by the end, they were mostly rhythmic and engaging. The highlights were the emotional ballads “Leave It All Behind Me,” “I’m Still,” and “My Ending,” which captured Penny’s inner turmoil and angst.

The cast made the show come alive. The star, Christiana Anbri, was outstanding, vivacious, and entrancing. She also belted feverishly, and it was near impossible not to be drawn in by her performance. She was backed up amply by Vachelle Gil and Sasha Toro, and the three danced up a storm. Lucia Giannetta as the mother and Lady Altovise as the therapist were also fierce belters who got to strut their stuff in solo numbers. The final performers were the five-person band (Jimi K. Bones, Ricky Valente, Andy Galore, Andrew Shantz, and Aaron Brooks), who sounded great and were completely together.

At times the show felt a little too moralistic -- actually saying its theme and meaning instead of showing them. Additionally, the premise got a little stale by the end of the show, especially given the lack of story and character growth; much more could have been developed prying into the psyche of this suffering teenager.

However, even if the audience’s ears were still ringing hours after the performance, it was definitely a fun evening with an incredible, engaging cast.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2005 Seth Bisen-Hersh