Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Passing Strange

Photo/Carol Rosegg

According to his fictional autobiography, Stew had a religious experience listening to the rock 'n' roll of his local church service; his play, Passing Strange, now passes that music back to its Broadway audience as if to make it a religious experience for us. The music is certainly big enough to do the trick -- particularly when Stew booms the words on "Keys" or "Work the Wound" -- and it's also diverse enough to play bright contrasts and colors, jumping from the pure comedy of "We Just Had Sex," to spoofs of punk ("Sole Brother") or Broadway ("The Black One"), to layered songs like "Must've Been High," and to character pieces like "Amsterdam." Stew knows the rules, he just chooses to break most of them, and as a result, his powerhouse show comes across as philosophy with a beat as his younger self, Youth (Daniel Breaker) struggles to identify himself, and to find the Real. I'm also happy to report that the Broadway transfer has tightened the gears on everything except for the finale, which feels disconnected now. Not that you'll notice, given how much better Mr. Breaker's gotten, both physically and lyrically.

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