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A CurtainUp Review
By Eric Beckson
Two decades of any man's life is an unwieldy affair for the stage, but with rousing song and dance and a first rate cast, this well balanced production--dare I say it?--pulls it off. Not surprisingly, there is an abundance of puns and other false wit ("we were right in the middle of coitus when you interrupted us"), but never a four letter word (the Latin ones are longer) or even a glimpse of R-rated nudity.
The basic charm of Larry Bortniker's music keeps many feet tapping in the audience while achieving the objective of establishing and developing characters through individual songs. The sweet and innocent early melodies evolve into swing and be-bop evoking the growing sophistication of the era and the characters. The lyrics keep pace to a point, but generally do not shed light on the inner motives, especially of Kinsey (played winsomely by Brian Noonan) who remains child-like in his pleasure seeking principles.
Losing his virginity (as a college professor of zoology) and marrying his sexually aggressive student Clara (Jennifer Simard) is the crossing of a Rubicon that leads Kinsey into a pre-me generation orgy of indulgence. The student-teacher seduction scene takes place during an early morning bug hunt, after which Kinsey sings: "I thought that love was incognito/until it bit me like a swamp mosquito."
Later, while fortuitously teaching a life preparation course on matrimony, Kinsey researches and finds a paucity of scientific, non-judgmental literature regarding human sexual behavior. Documenting this taboo subject, he realizes, is his mission in life, singing, "What people really/do when the lights/are low,/I need to know….Collectively and singly,/what makes people/moist and tingly?"
As if discovering that two plus two equals five, Kinsey zestfully throws himself into all manner of sexual experimentation--with and without Clara ("Swingin' for science/you make a lot of wonderful friends"). Promiscuity cheapens Kinsey's matrimonial love, but it inflames his scientific curiosity. Sadly, for Clara, the experiments are ultimately a betrayal and a leakage of identity, as she turns to her husband's own hand picked stand-in: the young, virile, accommodating lab assistant, Wally (Christopher Corts).
At the height of his escapades, Kinsey, with his eraser head haircut and black framed glasses, finds himself in a private Chicago sex club where anything goes. Despite the scanty set design, Mark Esposito's jaunty choreography and the rollicking jazz licks of "Pharaoh's Tomb" evoke the sordidness and absurdity of the subterranean sex culture.
"We are recorders of facts, not judges of the behavior we describe" intones Kinsey, as if pleading not to be judged after his first Kinsey Report is published. Even with the backing of the Rockefeller foundation and the imprimatur of Indiana University, he fears that history will footnote him as the Elmer Gantry of boom chica boom. But aside from neglecting his wife (and his vows), Kinsey is not judged for his sexual predilections but lauded for his boy-scout earnestness in building a fire of the flesh. Instead, it is the hypocritical college dean who tries to terminate Kinsey's employment who is exposed and humiliated for being unusually active.
Only when sex has died out between Kinsey and his wife do they seem capable of loving each other. In the showstopper that qualifies Simard as a Broadway diva, Clara sings the impassioned "The Docotor's Wife" with both comic and tragic overtones. Simard captures a rare poignant moment while singing the desperate housewife blues (from a motel room somewhere in America, no less.)
After more than a decade, the triangle folds as Wally bows out in a quest for a family of his own. As if all the wild oats have been sown, Kinsey and his wife reconcile themselves to a more traditional marriage. It seems like a rather flaccid conclusion, but when all the double entendres are used up, the curtain must fall.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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>6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
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