By: Sandi Durell
John Kander, of the songwriting team of Kander & Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret), has his first collaboration with a new partner since the death of Fred Ebb. He is Greg Pierce (Slowgirl) a young playwright, lyricist and writer who also happens to be the nephew of the star of The Landing, David Hyde Pierce.
The Landing is a compilation of three one-act musicals; – the first, entitled “Andra,” brings together Ben (Paul Anthony Stewart) busily working on renovating the kitchen of a well-to-do family. The father is no where to be seen – a financier now in Japan, leaving a fastidious wife, Julia Murney, and a curious son Noah (Frankie Seratch), who is being bullied in school and has no friends; he needs a male figure in his life. Ben provides Noah with his love of the stars and in particular Andromeda (Andra) and their relationship takes off until Noah becomes aware of another relationship with his lonely Mom. David Hyde Pierce plays narrator to the pathos and humor.
“Brick” is more of an absurdist musical fantasy, something you’d expect to see in a small experimental theater way downtown. Seratch plays Darius who comes to spend the summer with his Aunt Charl (Murney) and Uncle Cliff (Stewart) in Connecticut. Darius and his Auntie have a special relationship and love gangster movies on TV, spending their nights watching them and cavorting as if they were in the TV. When an advertisement appears to buy a brick for $100 that was part of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Charl can’t contain herself. Meanwhile, hubby is busy working the grill with a moose horn around his neck, calling and hoping he’ll hear a response.
The Brick arrives in a pinstripe gangster suit (Pierce) and off they all go in a fantasy of shooting sprees. There are some silly, wacky moments in song and dance and it’s theater of the ridiculous!
The last piece, The Landing, is also based in fantasy but is the reason why you wind up fidgeting through the first two. A gay couple, Jake (Pierce) and Denny (Stewart), longing to have a family, have adopted a young boy Collin (Seratch). He’s intelligent, polite, plays piano and never does anything wrong. And he talks about the travel he’s done in his short life throughout the world. The couple are thrilled beyond until the surrealistic happens – he is there for a purpose and The Landing is the end zone, the beyond! There’s a memorable poignant song that Jake sings with the ultimate sensitivity, “Thanks For That.”
The pieces come together to emphasize love, life and unexpected consequences. This is a far stretch from the familiar John Kander as he reaches into unknown territory, sometimes achieving but mostly not.
There’s minimal set design by John Lee Beatty, and some fun costuming (especially in The Brick) for Stewart as a cribbage costumed flittering neighbor. Lighting is by Ken Billington and there’s a 3 piece band conducted by Paul Masse, music director David Loud, with orchestrations by Larry Hochman.
Director Walter Bobbie keeps the three pieces flowing as best he can and the four cast members are well chosen talents.
*Photos: Carol Rosegg
“The Landing” continues at The Vineyard Theater 108 East 15 St, NYC. www.vineyardtheatre.org 212 353-0303 thru November 24th. The running time is 1 hr. 40 minutes.