From the Barrington Stage Musical Theater Lab to the Duke on 42 Street comes an odd, ambitious and contemporary new musical THE MEMORY SHOW by Sara Cooper (Book & Lyrics) and Zach Redler (Music) produced by the Transport Group Theatre Company starring Catherine Cox and Leslie Kritzer. It is performed without an intermission. It has fifteen musical numbers that are difficult to listen to – let alone remember.
Considering that the show deals with Mother (Cox) being diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s disease and Daughter (Kritzer) moving back home to care for her that might seem appropriate.
It’s a promising premise that might have made a better play without music – music that distracts and alienates. By the time the last number “Lullaby” arrived I couldn’t wait to depart.
I admire the work of the Transport Group. Their productions are daring and different – The Boys in the Band, Hello Again, See Rock City and Other Destinations, and The Queen of the Mist were all outstanding.
I have admired Catherine Cox especially her performance in Flambé Dreams a production of the New York Music Theater Festival, ditto for the very talented Leslie Kritzer for her turn in Rooms: A Rock Romance. But Cox’s over the top portrayal here seems more bipolar than someone suffering with being unable to remember. Plus the character is unlikable and so it is difficult to feel any sympathy for her.
Daughter (Kritzer) has her own set of problems. She is sacrificing all to help. So she says. She had given up her apartment and has been unlucky in love and her relationship with Mom seems to have always been stressful. It’s a she says, she says kind of thing.
Now Mom is trying to remember – having Daughter enact other people from the past. Their versions of what happened differ especially when it come to Father. Who’s telling the truth? Is it the sickness or has Mom always been in denial. Oh yes, there is a family secret that keeps popping up that Mom threatens to reveal.
And Daughter laments so often about she being the apple and her mother the tree that you soon tire of that clichéd expression.
The off stage musicians – heavy on oboe and clarinet, cello and violin tend to drown out the two performers in this art house, chamber like musical that is anti melodic in the extreme.
Mother and Daughter are angry, addressing the audience, telling their side of the story and become increasingly confrontational. One takes pills the other booze. The book tries its best to elicit some compassion and nearly succeeds at the close but the music all but destroys anything worth remembering about THE MEMORY SHOW.
Directed by Joe Calarco. Through May 18th.
www.TransportGroup.org Photo: Carol Rosegg
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