Review by Beatrice Williams-Rude
The Evolution of Mann describes the Odyssey of Henry Mann from prolonged adolescence to hopefully fulfilling adulthood. It is a little gem, bearing resemblances to the Tales of Hoffmann.
The protagonist, winningly played by Max Crumm, his best friend-apartment mate, and advisor, is charmingly embodied by Leslie Hiatt. The role mirrors that of Hoffmann’s muse.
That versatile Allie Trimm plays all the girlfriends as well as Henry’s mother is also something in common with Hoffman, in that the ideal production has the same soprano singing all of his loves. Henry, like Hoffman, keeps repeating the same destructive patterns and shooting himself in the foot, romantically.
Henry and Hoffmann are both writers, Henry being fixated on Fitzgerald, whose work he attempts to update—disastrously. Henry doesn’t accept that he’s best at doing children’s poetry—jingles. Henry, however, unlike Hoffman, finally moves out of his rut and it would seem, into fruitful adulthood.
That a musical could be produced at the tiny Cell theater demonstrates creativity writ large. Kudos to Nancy Manocherian founder and artistic director and La Vie Productions.
The clever book was written by Dan Elish who also wrote the meaningful lyrics with Douglas J. Cohen, who also composed the music. The music is organic—it conveys what it’s meant to convey, but it’s unlikely you come out whistling any of the tunes.
The innovative sets are by Libby Stradstad. It was beautifully directed by Joe Barros
Photos: Carol Rosegg
The Evolution of Mann opened Thursday, Oct. 4 and plays through Oct.21.
The Cell is at 338 West Twenty-Third Street (between Eighth and Ninth Aves). NYC www.thecelltheatre.org
Running time is 90 minutes without intermission.