The musical "Falsettos" is at the IU Theatre. It’s an action and music packed series of dramatic, thought provoking, funny and touching, connected vignettes. The setting is life on New Yorks’s upper west side on the fringes of the gay community in the late seventies and early eighties as the cancer of AIDS looms. Interestingly enough, it turns out to be a show entirely about those so often evoked but illusive "family values."
"Falsettos" is directed and choreographed by guest Sara Lampert Hoover in a very accomplished production with strong, well acted and sung performances. John Armstrong was especially outstanding as Marvin, a man who leaves his wife for his lover. Jesse Bernath played the lover, Whizzer, an attractive and profligate hunk, but one with some feelings. Amy Linden had the role of Marvin’s frustrated and angry wife, Trina.
Triangular dramatic settings are plenty complicated enough for most shows, but "Falsettos" decides to progress geometrically. The family’s therapist, Mendel, played by Zander Meisner falls in love and marries the now divorced Trina. When we add Alex Peurye-Hissong as Marvin and Trina’s teenaged son, Jason, to the mix, we’ve got a pentagon of complexities to contend with. They’re important, but I’m not going to get into the math of the second act’s Cordelia the caterer, Anna Malone, or Charlotte the doctor, Allison Moody.
The family’s teen aged son Jason reflects back to Marvin, Whizzer, Trina and Mendel the practical and spiritual stresses of their lives. He’s a teen aged kid who’s physically bounced back and forth between the households of his father and his father’s lover, and the household of his mother and her new husband, his former psychiatrist. He’s coming to heterosexual awakenings in the shadow of his father’s homosexuality. And, he’s wrestling with the spiritual and social issues surrounding a Jewish kid’s bar mitzvah. I do wish that sometime between now and the end of the run of "Falsettos" someone would sit down with him and make his final scene Hebrew prayer recognizable as Hebrew. However, Alex Peurye-Hissong sang well, acted well and was thoroughly believable as the teen aged Jason. His performance was first rate.
"Falsettos" is incredibly rich with music, action and even dance. There are forty-two separate musical numbers. Frankly, the first act is too long and too rich. There are too many songs with too many details and too much going on. It should take a lesson from the still very active, but more relaxed second act. The accompanying chores for the show are expertly handled by music directors Courtney Crouse and Robert Gehrenbeck. It’s a tribute to Wayne Jackson’s sound design and the excellent diction of the cast that not a word is lost.
The IU Theatre’s production of Finn and Lapine’s "Falsettos" plays each evening this week in the Wells-Metz Theatre of the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center. Seating is general and the curtain time is seven-thirty.
You can hear an interview with director Sara Lampert Hoover and actor John Armstrong on our Arts Interviews page .