Monday Smiles – 12/8/2014
I have to admit, sometimes, I pre-plan my Monday Smiles. If we are in Arizona and seeing the grandkids, I’m fairly certain I have a topic in hand. If we have plans … for example, theater tickets … for the weekend, I frequently assume that the experience will give me smile-fodder, especially if it’s something I expect to like. Thursday night, noticing that we didn’t have plans for the weekend, I went online to see what there was to do. Our favorite local theater, the Laguna Playhouse, was offering Striking Twelve, a play called a throughly-winning minimalist musical by the New York Times. Written by the Groovelily, self-described as just your typical violin/piano/drums theatrical power trio, Striking Twelve tells the story of a holiday-disillusioned man staying home on New Years Eve to avoid the faux cheer of the season. An unexpected visitor to his door sets him to reading Hans Christian Anderson’s The little Match Girl, which in turn transforms his evening. the Playhouse’s webpage said, Striking Twelve is a unique hybrid of pop-rock, musical comedy and live concert. Sounded to me like a sure thing for a Sunday Date Night and … as a bonus … a great topic for Monday Smiles so I grabbed two tickets.
The Laguna Playhouse presentation was performed by a quartet, Brent Schindele (who is also the musical directoron keyboards, Marisa Duchowny on guitar, Amberly Rosen on viper (an innovative electric violin) and Matt Wolpe on drums. The four played and sang the show’s 22 songs in a concert format, also playing themselves in the story set in New York City on New Year’s Eve and both narrating and playing the characters in the Hans Christian Andersen fable. They occasionally step out of their characters during the play to comment on themselves as actor-musicians and their feelings about the part they are playing. The set and lighting were excellent, especially the projections on a backdrop of sparking screens that filled in settings for each vignette. The performers were excellent, particularly Rosen on the lethal-looking Viper, an electric violin and Duchowney’s vocals. Groovelily’s lyrics are clever and manage ot bring both humor and pathos, sometimes at the same time. The message that, in the end, the best way to celebrate the New Year may be to help others is an appropriate seasonal message.
When Striking Twelve was over and Muri asked me, What did you think? the best I could come up with was, I wanted to like it better than I did. The Little Match Girl is a thin tale to carry a 90 minute show and the telling would have benefited from a little less melodrama and and a little more poignancy. It is, after all, the tale of a little girl who freezes to death on New Years Eve. And I always feel cheated if I don’t walk out of a musical with one songs stuck in my head. Still, an evening of well-performed music and interesting theatrical staging is worth a smile, even if it didn’t touch me as I’d hoped it would. So, it’s Monday and I’m smiling.