Fringe festivals are notorious for turning any space or venue into a temple of performance. Walking into DROM, you can't help but wonder how the hell a piece of theater could happen on that awkward stage, let alone a musical. But then you have Love Is Like Mud, a show that defies the odds. Written by Benjamin Folstein, Love Is Like Mud is a love story at its core. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl fall out if love. Boy and girl discover they need each other. Boy and girl fall back in love. But Love Is Like Mud is different. It's a high of a musical. With a score infused with alternative rock and ska, among other styles, Love Is Like Mud is like that show on Cartoon Network you turn on at midnight. It's weird and incoherent but completely makes sense. It's like nothing you've seen before. Folstein's piece is concert theater at its finest. It belongs in a rock venue. If you tried to do it in a classic theater, it will get decimated. The music Folstein has written is genius. The songs live in this world, yet they could be given to a rock band for their next album. Or his own. I'm sure many people would buy it. The lyrics are a perfect blend of crass, witty, and sentimental. And the music, with two of the most incredible sax players you can find, is worthy of a repeat listen.
Folstein ends his show with a song that is not a typical closer. In any other musical, "Chemistry" would be that mid show number you forget about. But it's quite fitting that this song exists because the two leads of this show sure got some chemistry! As John and Anne, Gavin Rohrer and Taylor Kate Manns are effervescent. The story they have to act is nothing new. Yet they manage to do something new with it. Manns has a pure vocal. And she happens to blend with her leading man well. And then there is Gavin Rohrer. It's criminal that Gavin Rohrer isn't a star. The kid's got talent with a voice that transcends styles. Sure John is a bit of a douche, but Rohrer makes him loveable. As the ensemble players, Jay Liebowitz and Elise Reynard provide great support, emotionally and vocally.
It's pretty rare for a writer to put on the director hat and succeed. Folstein does that. And it's all in part because he knows what this show is. And has four brilliant actors. He used the microphone device consistently. And he used the space to his advantage. It was tight but it worked. The comparison to that odd late night TV programming is partially due to the stop motion created and designed by Alex Koch and Birdhouse Studios projected during the show. How Folstein and his team expertly timed the movie with the action in the limited world of Fringe is amazing. Without this element, it's possible the show would not have been as strong. Kudos to Folstein and his brilliant work.
Love Is Like Mud knows what it is and where it wants to go. Throw it in a seedy bar in the village for a late night engagement and it will run for years. Guaranteed. Folstein did his homework and it paid off immensely.