I was really looking forward to seeing Bloodsong of Love, the new Joe Iconis musical which has just opened at Ars Nova (close to the New Jersey border in Manhattan) after last seasons ReWrite which I greatly admired that was also directed by John Simpkins who has repeated his contributions here where the patrons of the first row are offered plastic sheets to protect them from flying food bits and blood.
Hopefully this out of the way, charming little theatre will get an audience for this triple threat (book, music & lyrics) by Mr. Iconis who is known for his dark sense of humor, quirky melodic motifs and up beat songs. Here he has written a rock and roll take off on “Spaghetti Westerns” a genre of made-on-the-cheap films that made Clint Eastwood famous and were infamous for mixing Italians, Spanish and Americans in Westerns of questionable taste and lots of blood being shed.
The production values are superb. On this tiny stage surrounded by WANTED posters, the excellent cast of six and band of five offer up the tale of a man on a mission. He is The Musician (Eric William Morris) who with his guitar by his side plays music that slays and journeys throughout Mexico with his amigo buddy Banana (Lance Rubin) with his mean tambourine to retrieve his wife Santa Violetta (MK Lawson) who has been abducted by the evil and mean Lo Cocodrilo – a man suffering from a Napoleonic complex who plays the kazoo. That’s the plot. The overly long plot. The show is almost two and a half hours with a brief intermission where you can grab a drink at the bar. You’ll need it. There is also The Narrator (Jason “Sweet Tooth” Williams) who also portrays a one eyed Bartender who has his own distinct way of serving drinks – Katrina Rose Dideriksen – a footless Whore in Boots, Mrs. Banana and The Crone. All that is missing is a horse. We do however get a frog.
The set (Michael Schweikardt) costumes (Michelle Eden Humphrey) and lighting (Chris Dallos) all help set the South of the Border mood for Bloodsong of Love – but it is the orchestrations and musical arrangements by Matt Hinkley that outshine everything else.
John Simpkins does wonders with the small space, having his actors climb ladders and tables and the piano to give added height and life to the proceedings. In a stroke of brilliance he has a small tread mill that The Musician journeys on facing the audience, striding towards them. The actors are all on the same page and play their parts with honest conviction at times to great comedic effect.
Do you hear a BUT coming? Yes, you do. BUT the show is very uneven. Especially in the book department and could use a trimming, perhaps condensing it into a one act. We get off to a great start and then it takes a nose dive only to grab our interest and then lose it once again with the Turkey Leg scene which is very aptly named.
Mr. Iconis also surreptitiously gets in some thoughts about staying true to your art, musicians and following the path you believe in. All good advice.
There are some great songs with some darkly funny lyrics BUT Bloodsong of Love somehow doesn’t come completely together. It’s a little too al dente. Especially in the ballad heavy second act. And that’s a shame. There are so many talented people involved that with some more work this drink friendly show could be a riot. www.arsnovanyc.com