KPBS AIRDATE: October 10, 1991
I don’t, I don’t. Wanna see this small, sentimental concept musical again for at least another year. Only three weeks ago, I saw the La Jolla Stage Company version of this 1966 collaboration by the “Fantasticks” team of Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. And there I was, just a few days ago, once again sitting through “My Cup Runneth Over” and other sweet or soppy songs made popular by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. The latest production plants its four posters in the Theatre in Old Town.
This is a new company, and it’s still getting its sea legs. Well, at any rate, things seemed pretty shaky on opening night last weekend. Almost every follow-spot cue was missed, and the actors seemed unsure of their lines and very tentative about the music. And, well, what else is there in a two-character musical?
The premise is a tuneful romp through fifty years of a turn-of-the-century marriage, from the moment the couple says “I Do” through their lean and lush times, the birth of two children, an affair, threatened divorce, the kids’ marriage and the final move out of the original house and bedroom where it all began.
That’s a lot to ask of two people. In order to pull it off, they must be both convincing actors and accomplished singers. In the case of Patti Goodwin and Charles Jackam, neither skill can carry them through. There are moments, of course, like the cute duet “Nobody’s Perfect,” where they catalogue all the little personal foibles that drive each of them nuts. Anybody who’s ever been in a relationship can relate.
But the play also has a turn-of-the-century sensibility, in terms of a woman’s role and identity — and that can make you squirm. Well, it did me, on a couple of occasions, like the song “What is a Woman?” when she sings, “Maybe a woman’s only alive when in love.” Yecch.
This production tossed away one really magic moment in the play, when the two characters age before our eyes. We watch them put their wrinkles and hair whitener on. For me, glancing behind the scenes always exposes the wonderful wizardry of the theater. We observe delicious onstage makeup transformations in “Man of La Mancha” and in the more recent “M. Butterfly.” But here in Old Town, while we watched Jackam transform himself, Goodwin did much less, and she broke the spell by having to go offstage for her wig change. That was an instance of too little.
The musical crooning was altogether too much. Both director Dan Yurgaitis and Music Director Rand Allen have to take credit for that. And what about those off-key harmonies? Well, as the song goes, “Nobody’s perfect.” Not even master scenic designer Ocie Robinson, who does such marvelous work at North Coast Rep. Here, his big wooden bed is lovely, but the rest of the set pieces are drab and uninteresting.
For this new company, a professional theater wing of the Francis Parker School, all I can say is, Better luck next time. And please retire Schmidt and Jones for awhile. My “I Do” cup runneth over.
I’m Pat Launer, for KPBS radio.
©1991 Patté Productions Inc.