Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Dreaming is Dangerous, But Not Drinking!

Williamsburg is filled with artists and dreamers and drinkers. It’s a utopian land where whiskey flows and the past is forgotten. Well, at least that’s how it’s described in the bizarro operetta Whiskey Pants: The Mayor Of Williamsburg.
After “The Event”, a vague apocalyptic-like occurrence that forced dreamers to flea to the outskirts of the city, the citizens of Williamsburg live in whiskey bliss drinking their worries away under the rule of a mayor by the name of Whiskey Pants. In Whiskey Pants: The Mayor Of Williamsburg by Serrana Gay, Joseph Reese Anderson, and Christian De Gre, the people of Williamsburg are brought to question their way of life after a mysterious dreamer named Thomas makes his way into the drunken city. To set the scene, an old-timey video establishes the backstory of this world. If you missed it or didn’t think you needed to pay attention, you are sorely mistaken. Likely shown as the audience walks in due to strict time restraints, it prevents the audience from understanding the full scope of this piece. Once the operetta gets underway, the introduction of the vibrant inhabitants leaves you questioning what exactly is about to happen. And until Thomas enters the picture, it’s a bit of a muddy mess. Clarity is essential in any piece with music, especially when the lyrics are the entire story. With no microphones and so many voices and instruments, clarity was out the window and thus, so was the story. The driving plot focused on the dreamers, Thomas and his long lost sister Abigail, who until it was revealed appeared as if they were going to be lovers, and their mission to change the world. But it takes so much time before they are brought into the picture that you’re focused on what exactly this place is. The other plot point that became clear due to repetition is beating the mayor in a drinking contest means you get the Whiskey Pants. With a thin plot, the stakes are low. The music by De Gre had shades of Sondheim, and when understood, the lyrics were clever and fun. There were bits and pieces that were exciting but it just wasn’t cohesive. Perhaps this story made sense to the creators, but it didn’t quite translate.
The Whiskey Pants ensemble did an incredible job with their restrictions. With a tight space and a large group of actors attempting choreography, it was clear that there was strong commitment to their work even if there was a body in the way of an arm move. Leading the pack was Isaac Harold as Thomas. Harold’s pure vocals and squeaky-clean performance was a true highpoint. Nicholas Connolly as the Mayor had a nice voice but his performance was a bit one note. The other two larger roles were played by Rachel Drayke and Bethany Geraghty, neither of whom have particularly strong vocals. The strong voices are forced to the ensemble, likely because they did sing the majority of the score as background. Of those strong performances in the ensemble came from the versatile Jessica Futran and the booming Jensen Clifford.
Dedication and commitment is something that truly should be rewarded in art. Whiskey Pants excelled with their costumes. The colorful and eclectic design was something that was a truly redeeming quality. It didn’t matter that period was nonexistent because it was stunning to look at. The costumes and make up fit the individual strikingly. Director De Gre played through the challenges of the space the best he could. With little places to go and the need to have the extra voices and musicians on stage, staging issues were inevitable.
Maybe in a different setting Whiskey Pants could be something special. But with the limitations placed upon them, the production didn’t quite reach its worth. Plus it’s very possible that the show would totally be enhanced by whiskey shots for all so we can truly understand this world. If there was a deep meaning hidden within the operetta, it was not easily accessible.