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A CurtainUp Review
Everythings Turning Into Beautiful

I have problems living.--- Brenda

Daphne Rubin-Vega
Daphne Rubin-Vega (Photo: Carol Rosegg )
There is one resonant exchange near the end of the grammatically mysterious Everythings Turning into Beautiful in which the two distinctly lonely characters, Brenda and Sam, reveal themselves with unusually interesting candor. Each briefly exhibits an extraordinary self understanding. Unfortunately, the road that we must traverse in getting to this late scene is quite unrewarding, and Seth Zvi Rosenfeld's script meanders with desultory chatter about his two characters' respective musical careers and past relationships with others.

The audience is given ample information that this sometime songwriter team is about to have their first mutual sexual encounter, and so they do. Unfortunately, there is an absence of chemistry between the two performers, whether in the ample bed onstage or not. Ms. Rubin-Vega in particular, who has been attractively showcased in works ranging from the mega-musical Rent to at least two of Nilo Cruz's Cuban-inflected dramas, here seems to be slumming as she awaits a Broadway gig in the upcoming revival of Les Miserables. Her Brenda, a self-described crazy woman, never for a moment displays behavior that is anything but self-controlled. Malik Yoba, who portrays the floundering father Sam, also has failed to find an angle to his character that warrants our interest.

The play begins at about 2 a.m. on a Christmas morning when Sam unexpectedly arrives at Brenda's Chelsea apartment after an extraordinarily long walk from far uptown, having seen a light in her loft apartment from the street. These two largely detached souls, having worked together in the pop music world, apparently have established a strong platonic friendship, although they drift apart for long spells. Both, we are told, have been "beaten blindly by the elements of love." On this occasion, Brenda has cancelled a Caribbean vacation, while Sam seems embroiled in family court as a potential deadbeat dad, displaying ambivalent feelings about both his two ex-wives and his children. The two characters recall tunes they have liked, both of their own creation and of others, and we hear several of them. These songs, however much they are intended to enrich our appreciation for the personalities at hand, are so pointedly presentational that they become intrusive to the drama, merely making us more aware of the script's failure to engage us.

The New Group, which usually chooses reliably gritty or intense material, curiously has settled on a bland script here. Even the accomplished director Carl Forsman, whose various productions of both vintage and contemporary works usually create sparks on stage, has been unable to bring much validity to the dull relationship or flat script at hand. Beowulf Boritt's naturalistic set deftly rotates at intermission to move from living area to bedroom in Brenda's funky bohemian loft, but the admirable mise-en-scene is also for naught.

Everythings Turning into Beautiful
Written by Seth Zvi Rosenfeld

Songs by Jimmie James
Directed by Carl Forsman
Cast: Daphne Rubin-Vega (Brenda) and Malik Yoba (Sam)
Set Design: Beowulf Boritt
Costume Design: Theresa Squire
Lighting Design: Josh Bradford
Sound Design: Daniel Baker
Running time: 1 hour and 40 minutes including one intermission.
The New Group at Acorn Theater at 410 West 42nd Street (Theatre Row complex).
From 7/17/06 to 9/02/06; opening 8/03/06.
Monday-Friday at 8; Saturday at 2 and 8.
Tickets: $51.25
Viewed by Brad Bradley at the Saturday, July29 press preview.
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