BWW Reviews: THE TUTOR at Village Theatre Abandons Itself
You're a cute little new musical that has workshopped itself at Village in their Village Originals program twice before. You have an interesting storyline and a fun little gimmick. You start off a little weak but there are sparks of potential. So why would you completely abandon that cute storyline and gimmick by Act Two and then proceed to beat your audience over the head with a tired message of letting time work things out? (A message that made no sense for what preceded by the way.) Unfortunately this is the question I found myself asking at Village Theatre's "The Tutor". Sure the performers shine but they shine in a show that has no idea what it wants to be or where it wants to go.
The cute premise I mentioned is this. Edmund (Eric Ankrim) is a struggling author trying to write the great American novel. In order to keep his time free for writing he hires himself out as a tutor for "stupid rich kids". Enter his latest student Sweetie (Katie Griffith) who seems to offer no surprises. She's spoiled and not that bright but still manages to manipulate Edmund into allowing her to use some of their tutoring sessions to see her boyfriend. But pretty soon Edmund realizes there's more to this rich kid as she proffers ideas that spur Edmund's book to better and better places. Cute, huh? And that gimmick? Well the central characters in Edmund's book, Sean and Hildegard (Matthew Kacergis and Kirsten deLohr Helland) keep appearing on scene to act out bits of the book and offer advice to the blocked Edmund as well as lamenting the fact that they have to keep changing costumes because Edmund can't stick with a time period for them. Adorable!
Unfortunately, writers Maryrose Wood and Andrew Gerle completely ditch both that storyline as well as the gimmick half way through the show and what's left is a misshapen mass of half a new story, songs that don't move the show along or really go anywhere and a trite ending that comes completely out of the blue and just feels jammed in there. And let's talk about the parents. Sweetie's parents, Richard and Esther (Hugh Hastings and Beth DeVries) are on hand as cartoonish examples of clueless, privileged parents and serve little to no purpose in the story. Yet they keep popping up interjecting a secondary storyline that only serves to dilute the main one (which wasn't that solid to begin with). They're given songs that really have no business in this show and only seem there as a device to give them something to do. Plus, none of these people are particularly likable or sympathetic so it was hard to invest in any of their outcomes.
I don't fault the performers. All do a fine job with this floundering show. Ankrim is goofy and fun, Griffith, Hastings and DeVries show off the angst of the family well and Kacergis and deLohr Helland bring in some lovely and funny moments as the put upon novel characters and all have incredible voices. But that old saying, "They're so good I could have listened to them read from the phone book" doesn't really hold up. You can have amazing performers but in a bad show it just becomes sad.
I've seen several shows at Village Originals that have tons more promise than this one so why they chose to give this a mainstage run is completely beyond me. Since I started my three letter rating system at the beginning of the year no shows I've reviewed have gotten the dreaded lowest rating. One came close and got it for part of the show but never for the whole thing. Well, dear readers, allow me to introduce the first recipient of the WTF rating, "The Tutor".
"The Tutor" performs at Village Theatre in Issaquah through April 27th before moving to their Everett location running May 2nd through the 25th. For tickets or information contact the Village Theatre Issaquah box office at 425-392-2202 or their Everett box office at 425-257-8600 or visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.