Monday, August 17, 2009

Willy Nilly

Photo: Ken Stein/Runs With Scissors

The first few scenes of this extravagant musical (part of FringeNYC) promise an amusing send-up of both the hippie generation and the "squares" who feared them. Aiming to skewer the Sharon Tate-Roman Polanski circle as well, the show follows the familiar story of the Manson Family and their eventual victims, but with Charles Manson himself flattened into an evil-free, comic character. By the time the Tate-LaBianca murders and the subsequent trial roll around the play has long since fallen apart. At the climax, intended (I think) to suggest the media frenzy around the trial, characters are desperately leaping about, even undressing, amidst a cacophony from the overly loud band — anything to find a way out. There are some effective comic bits, but neither the mostly solid acting nor the vigorous, clever choreography can save this exercise in futile exuberance.

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