26 February 2008

The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island or, Jaime Gives Up On Coming Up With a Witty Title

I'd been hearing about The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island or, The Friends of Dr. Rushower for a long time. I'd been hearing about this musical whose librettist is also a cartoonist, and how the entire set would be projected animations, and didn't that sound cool? Yes. Was it? Yes. Did I have any inkling that the music would also be beautiful and that the story would be interesting and strange and beautifully told with an ambiguity to the ending that's insanely hard to pull off successfully? In short, I had no idea what I had to look forward to. I'd also heard some not-so-good things about the show, but I know now that those people (hi, you!) are insane and have no taste.

The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island or, The Friends of Dr. Rushower is ever-so-slightly related to Urinetown in rough plot outline - pretty blonde daughter of rich single dad and handsome boy from the other side of the tracks set out to right a societal wrong. But where Urinetown (which I also loved) trafficked in pastiche and irony, TSBoKIoTFoDR is more earnest and less straightforward. They're really different shows, so that's probably the end of the Urinetown comparisons. First, the obvious thing, the animations. At first the sketchy-sloppy thing wasn't working for me (and the simple elegance of Persepolis was still fresh in my mind from Friday night), but it became so magical and was used so cleverly that I had to give in. This is much more than a projected cartoon behind the actors. The music, the aspect of a musical that I probably know the least about, was maybe my favorite part of the show. Even the overture got me smiling. (Though a pit band in white shirts, vests, skinny ties, and hats doesn't hurt.) The show's sung-through, but it's not lacking in discreet songs. The music feels new without form-fitting to 'new musical theatre' and avoids annoying pastiche. I don't know enough about music to tell you what it's like, but I will just say that I loved it. And the story, as I said, is, like the whole package, weird and interesting. Without giving too much away, I'll just say that the play works with morals and endings with a great ambiguity. Not confusing or vague, but no clean right or wrong, in a way that wasn't preachy - "This is to show you that the world has no clear right or wrong!"- but just felt honest and made me think.

The show isn't perfect - the second act drags a wee bit, leaving me not as focused as I wish I'd been for the end, and I'm not sure if I'm racist or the play wasn't dealing with a race question it brought up - but it's wonderful, and I'm so glad I got to see it. The actors are across-the-board wonderful - Jody Flader has an interesting, beautiful voice, and Bobby Steggert, who at first seemed to be too clean-cut and cute for this weird little world, turned out to be perfect.

Because I'm late to the game, there aren't abundant discounts (this one for $40 tickets is all I could find), but the Vineyard does have a student rush - 2 hours before curtain, $20 each, 2 tickets per ID. There are also flexible memberships, including Under 30 and Theatre Artist memberships - $30 to join, then $15 per ticket per show. The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island or, The Friends of Dr. Rushower runs through March 16.

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