A daffy, disorganized tribute to a major off-Broadway producing organization.
By Joel Benjamin
For an—albeit—fictional celebration of a non-fictional happy milestone in the history of the Theater For The New City, 155 Thru The Roof is an odd, uneven, unprofessional and wacky way to celebrate. This highly regarded theater with a long history of presenting everything from the finest avant-garde work to Charles Busch’s campy plays is badly represented by this collaboration between Toby Armour (book and lyrics) and Peter Dizozza (music) which takes off from the recent moment when the mortgage for Theater For The New City was fully paid off, relieving the non-profit of a major debt. Instead of an homage to a major producing organization these artists decided to go surreally silly, sci-fi and childish.
The character of Lily Field (a nervous but gung-ho Cam Kornman) is 155’s stand-in for the TNC’s executive director Crystal Field. As she ritually burns up the paid up mortgage of the Theater of the New Syzygy (get it?), she is joined by the Ancient Mariner (as in the Rime of…, played huffingly by T.D. White in a bright red uniform, complete with epaulets) who takes her on an intergalactic adventure that leads to a version of Mars that is populated by green people and, most oddly, two Greek mythological characters, Apollo (an energetic, muscular Jamal Crowelle) and the doom-sayer Cassandra (a lovely Kat Yew who also doubles as a pushy reporter). In the middle of all this, Jack (Mike Hill) and Janet (Amanda Salazar), two employees of the Syzygy company, have romantic issues. A Python (Brittney Benson) and a Wolfman (Justin Rodriguez) wander in and out of the festivities, too.
None of this made any sense, although the songs, even as badly sung as they were, added some zest and heft to the goings-on: “Big Apple Blues” was about the looming real estate crunch that forever threatens arts organizations in New York City; “Hit or Miss,” sung by Lily was her song of self-reliance; “How Do You Know When It’s Over?” sung by Jack and Janet, about their romantic doubts; and “I Want to Live In the Catskills,” the Mariner’s paean to getting away from it all.
Mark Marcante’s barebones set economically evoked both Lily’s office with Obie posters on the wall and the strange outer-space trip the cast takes. A rack of costumes was both practical and colorful. The costumes by Sally Lesser were fun, if a bit over the top, more Village Halloween Parade than necessary.
George Ferencz’s direction kept the chaos contained, but couldn’t hide the absurdity of the characters’ antics.
155 Thru The Roof (April 3-29, 2014)
Theater For The New City
155 First Ave., between 9th & 10th Sts.
New York, NY
Tickets: 212-254-1109 or www.theaterforthenewcity.net
Running Time: 100 minutes with one intermission