Dr. Bradley’s Fabulous Functional Narcissism

 

 The Psychoanalytic Odyssey of a Once Glorified Chorus Boy

 

Photo by Michael Stever

 

by Alix Cohen

 

Sometimes over the top works. Dr. Bradley Jones’ colorful, personal history is rather impossible to resist. (Yes, he’s a Dr., a practicing psychoanalyst.) Combining pathologic terminology with the colloquial, Jones has written an accessible, sophisticated theater piece that’s sympathetic, entertaining- and, who’d’ve guessed-illuminating!

Fasten your seatbelts. This autobiography sings and dances its way from a childhood out of Scott Fitzgerald to performance in  A Chorus Line, through visceral life change, to love. Jones is a good writer. The story is keenly observed, witty, dark, and redemptive. Musical numbers are extremely well chosen. As tempted as I am to captivate with the whole narrative, I’ve cherry picked segments and songs for this review.

Photo by James Gavin

 

I have the worst apprehension/That you don’t crave my attention, Jones begins, looking palpably anxious. (“You Mustn’t Kick It Around” -Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart- Pal Joey.) Avowedly here to talk about narcissism, especially his own, the artist, or his id, opens somewhat defensively. One almost hears, be kind.

At 6 years old, life was forever changed by the musical Oliver. Laying aside Barbies and Trolls, Jones made a decision. There was no one to tell. Parents- adulterous Jobbie and fiercely social Patti “J” had “an affinity for a lavish lifestyle” (he practically conjures them) with little time for empathy or offspring.

“Narcissism emerges when a sensitive person’s emotional life isn’t mirrored back by his caregivers. That child reaches for a fantasy of becoming perfect…He’s a little kid trying to repair a hole in his soul…”

Jones raises a hand mirror and strikes a pose (Hirschfeld would’ve loved him.) Cue Leonard Bernstein’s “Life is Absolute Perfection” from Candide. Exaggeration suits this number. The performer has fun, but also imbues it with edge beyond the song’s innate satire. (He does dark really well.) A pathos-filled “I Remember (Sky)” (Stephen Sondheim from Evening Primrose) acts as metaphor for a period during which the young man felt invisible.

 

Photo (L): John Seemann – Photo (R): James Gavin

Between jobs, Jones auditioned for A Chorus Line (his personal Golden Fleece) 10 times, finally securing a stand-in role for the exhaustive national tour. It was the era of midnight drug and booty calls. No excuses are made, none needed. First the road and then, at last, Broadway.  A familiar top hat graces the piano.

A la Chicago, clad in black wife beater shirt and low bowler, he regales us with life in the company and discoveries made in therapy to a vamp of Kander and Ebb’s “Roxy.” Bob Fosse may never have hired Jones, but he’s got the moves and attitude down.

Ten years, sobriety, two blown out knees, the AIDS crisis, and a tragic death later “a little too long at the fair” he left. But I miss the mountains./I miss the dizzy heights./ All the manic, magic days,/And the dark, depressing nights…. (“I Miss the Mountains”- Brian Yorkey/Tom Kitt from Next to Normal.) Becoming a psychotherapist for reasons we wouldn’t suspect, Jones also found love. He talks and sings about both with candid balance and feeling. “Every day I bump into my fallibility.” The choice of finale song is- perfect; encore ebullient.

Bradley Jones has been doing this show to popular acclaim since May 2018. (I’m late to it.) Though script, stylized movement and engagement with the audience is winning, it’s time for a directorial tune-up. The performer delivers almost everything at the robust level of an evangelist, losing emotional differentiation. Additionally, some of the deftly chosen songs are diminished in lyric impact by, and this is an assumption, repetition. Neither is a difficult fix.

 

Photo by Jeff Harnar

The so-called Freudians are excellent. ‘Special call outs are due to Mike Pettry’s arrangements and facility with background music and to Alden Banta’s multifaceted talent.

Dr. Bradley’s Fabulous Functional Narcissism will be back at The Laurie Beechman Theatre come Spring. Its uniquely worthy and a very good time.

Dr. Bradley’s Fabulous Functional Narcissism…

The Psychoanalytic Odyssey of a Once Glorified Chorus Boy

Bradley Jones- Writer/Performer

Directed by K.T. Sullivan

The Freudians: Mike Pettry- MD/piano

Jacob Silver-bass, Zack Eldridge-drums, Alden Banta-woodwinds

February 13, 2019    A Benefit for The Actors Fund

 

The Laurie Beechman Theater   407 West 42nd St.

Venue Calendar: https://www.westbankcafe.com/laurie-beechman-theatre

 

Share