The Intersection of Art and Theater
By Marcina Zaccaria
Truth and beauty take center stage as Spot on the Wall premieres at The New York Musical Theatre Festival.
In the play, Paul strives to get his photo series on the wall at a museum. He faces a conflicted relationship with his father, and the supportive partnership with his girlfriend, Laurel, in an effort to establish his place in the art world.
Troubled that he can’t make his statement, Paul finally breaks through his exasperation, and finds release through his art. It is a fine portrayal of Paul, by Robert Hager, who not only has a sublime singing voice, but also a remarkable sense of character arc. Struggling to find the right coping strategy to deal with his bitter Father, played by the reticent Neal Mayer, Paul keeps Laurel (Madison Stratton), who is vying for a Curator position, close to him.
The cool, blue lights immerse the actors in a world that is quite malleable. Paul is unafraid to find the silence. Emotions, like fear and doubt, find a way to transform, creating an empty space for the artist to resolve his crisis. With the shadows of the past lurking behind him, it’s a lucid framework to build within, as the actors find a construct for beauty.
With his series of photos on the wall, Paul remembers his deceased mother, and makes his own respective statement. By being bold and free, he finds ways to cope with the past. In his movement and his gesture, he is prepared to struggle, as if breaking out of clay or a mold that he has been asked to build within. In the end, a wing of the museum (where photos of his mother are finally exhibited) is dedicated to his family.
There is something memorable about the modern dance in the show. Though NYMF features musical theater, it is quite refreshing to see modern dance, choreographed by Allicia Lawson, in Spot on the Wall. Lisa Kuhnen, as Daphne, and Michael Warrell, as Apollo, have a great sense of breath and length.
Dressed in breezy white costumes designed by Joey Haws, the dancers, who are present on stage for most of the show, build a quality of expectancy. They really find ways to punctuate each new passage; the interplay between their work and the music is of note. The Musical Direction by Mike Rosengarten is refined. The off-stage musicians playing violin, bass, and guitar blend classical and folk styles with a keen sense of timing, keeping each moment fresh, in a way that is quintessentially NYMF.
The New York Musical Theatre Festival prides itself on nurturing “the creation, production, and public presentation” of new musicals. With Spot on the Wall, we see the possibility for new ideas to come to life. Though Theater 3 sometimes feels cramped (like a perfect, black box/ workshop space), the performers spare none of their topnotch skills to bring this great piece of theater to life.
Spot on the Wall, with Book and Lyrics by Kevin Jaeger and Music by Alex Mitchell, is running until Tuesday, July 14 at Theater 3, 311 W. 43rd Street. It is produced as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. For complete performance schedule and additional information, visit www.spotonthewall.com or www.nymf.org.