Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Romantic Poetry

photo: Joan Marcus

"There's a nightclub in my shoe/And I go there when I'm blue": John Patrick Shanley doesn't only write lyrics like someone who has never written them before. He also writes them like someone who has never heard them before. At first, with mouth likely agape, you think that the schmaltzy Lawrence Welk ambiance and the generic melodies and clunky, unmusical lyrics in Romantic Poetry are meant to be purposefully bad, a satire on our cultural mythology around romantic love. But before long the songs in this would be absurdist fable more likely seem to be an attempt to make inelegant "real" poetry out of what ordinary schlubs say - I haven't cringed so much since Paul Sorvino was waxing lyrical about how love makes the garbage on the streets smell like roses in Slow Dancing In The Big City. It's no shock that artists must sometimes fail, even ones as gifted as Shanley; the shock is that this survived all the check points and is actually up on stage for MTC's audiences. The show is too cringe-inducing to be boring, and it counts for something that all six performers commit to it bravely. My vote for the unluckiest would be Mark Linn-Baker who gets the bum end of the rhyme of "heinous" with "penis" and who inexplicably spends most of the second act dressed as if he's about to play Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof.

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