Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: A Bad Romance

By Michael Block 

If you had to do a double take to ensure that the real Taylor Swift wasn't in You belong with me because you're so vain, you're not alone. But rest assured, it wasn't her. But her lyrics were ever present. Written by Heider Tunarrosa, You belong with me because you're so vain is a modern day “Love Story” that is more of a "Bad Romance.” C.C. Baxter pines over his ex Alfred, who is stuck in his head. Meanwhile his best friend, roommate, and collaborator Lenny is dating a new guy. As Lenny tries to get C.C. to shake it off, the devil and angel in his head, known as Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, lead him down a road of romantic conflict. This idea and story were strong. The story is simply silly. The execution, not so much. Tunarrosa's story has some fabulous plot holes that need to be patched up moving forward. But for that to happen, it will be best to step out from the central role and sit only in the playwright's chair. The timeline in reality was a bit messy but it wasn't nearly as messy as the device Tunarrosa used. As it stands now, the device of voices in C.C.'s head was poorly utilized. The devil and angel conceit was cute but when it came to Alfred, director Matt ZanFagna planted him in a chair causing more problems than just being uninteresting.
ZanFagna's direction was a bit absent. With the rules of the world being inconsistent, he haphazardly built the physical world. Sometimes the actors would use the stools to "enter" and "exit" the apartment. Other times they would not. Sometimes the couch would move and it was never clear just exactly why. And with little to no lighting shifts, the passage of time was lost. Clarity is essential. It wasn’t present.
The company came to play. As mentioned, the character study Sonja Higgins did to portray Taylor Swift was extraordinary. It was uncanny. If she hasn't found an outlet to be a T. Swizzle impersonator, she must. We knew Samuel was trouble when he walked in. Tristan Biber captured the douchbagery of certain gay men. As Alfred, Jeffrey Roth played up the catty queen. The script featured two quick potential romances for C.C. that never were fleshed out. But if you wanted to see more of any character, it was the sweet, charming, and perfect Jason. If you didn’t fall in love with Dillon May the moment he walked in, you might not have a heart. He was perfectly adorable.
Writing a star vehicle for yourself isn’t always the best idea. Tunarrosa lacked the poise to truly carry this show on his shoulders. He should trust that there is something deep within his script and spend the time listening and finding it. The laughs are earned when he drops in the Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift lyrics. The play strives when it calls attention upon itself. There’s something that can be pulled out.

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