Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Murder Ballad

With viewers on two sides and at tables on stage, the sung-through Murder Ballad happens in the audience's collective face, offering immediacy, excitement, and the chance to be close to extremely attractive actors. The storyline is flimsy (love triangle), and the characters (wild woman, nice guy, not nice guy, vaguely defined woman) are two-dimensional, but it doesn't matter. Murder Ballad is about the rolicking sexy music by Juliana Nash and Julia Jordan; the electric direction-staging-choreography by Trip Cullman and Doug Varone; and the compelling and occasionally thrilling performances by Karen Olivo, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Will Swenson, and John Ellison Conlee.

Karen Olivo, Will Swenson
Photo: Joan Marcus
Kudos are also due to Mark Wendland for scenic design, Jessica Pabst for costume design, and especially lighting designer Ben Stanton, who managed to provide 360 degrees of sharp and evocative lighting throughout the extensive performance area.

On the Manhattan Theatre Club website, it says, "A love triangle gone wrong, Murder Ballad centers on Sara, an Upper West Sider, who seems to have it all, but whose downtown past lingers enticingly and dangerously in front of her. This sexy, explosive, new rock musical explores the complications of love, the compromises we make, and the betrayals that can ultimately undo us." Well, yes, that's true, but what it really explores is how to revel in the sheer talent and energy of the show's performers and creators.

I'm not sure how Murder Ballad would come across in a less fully realized production. Its flaws might well outweigh its strengths. But in this production, it kicks ass.

(Sat at table on stage; tdf tickets)

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