BWW Review: Musical Dating Adventure NEUROSIS Is Extremely Enjoyable Fluff
While the exact location of composer Ben Green, lyricist Greg Edwards and bookwriter Allan Rice's funny and frothy new musical dating adventure, Neurosis, is never revealed, it's a safe bet that New Yorkers, who have glamorized and romanticized neurotic tendencies into a beloved badge of honor, will mightily relate to its wacky antics in the name of love.
On the surface, it's a rather familiar story with a few oddball twists. Frank (puppy dog adorable Kevin Zak) works in a magic store, but his dreams of being a master illusionist himself appear to be coming closer when a trick he creates earns him a spot in a no-pay-but-great-exposure gala show. ("'Black tie optional.' Such a passive-aggressive way to say 'black tie.'")
Abby (crisp and empathetic Jennifer Blood) is a successful marketing executive with a habit of dating intellectually floundering bad boys. After her latest train wreck of a boyfriend walks out ("It's nothing you did, baby. It's just who you are."), shiksa Abby resolves to solve her romantic woes by finding herself a Jewish guy. "We'll share the same opinions," she sings, "Well, except on Palestine."
So although Abby is amused by the shyly charming Frank during their first chance encounter, when he sucks up enough courage to try and flirt, it isn't until their second chance encounter, when Frank offers a toast of "L'chaim," that she suddenly sees him as boyfriend material.
But every moment Frank and Abby spend together is really more of a double date, because accompanying each of them every waking moment is a physical embodiment of their neuroses, expressing fears, debating actions and giving advice.
Frank's human subtext, bluntly named Neurosis, is played with zesty razzle-dazzle by Brennan Caldwell. A highlight of director Andy Sandberg's bubbly production, and especially Shea Sullivan's snazzy choreography, is how Zak and Caldwell interact with each other with the brisk physicality of a well-oiled vaudeville team.
At the performance I attended Abby's constant companion, Neurosalina was played by understudy Casey Erin Clark with such cynical comic finesse you'd expect her to be sipping martinis between caustic criticisms. ("This is the seventh Saturday night we're working. That's like 329 in single-people years.")
Naturally, parents are involved in such ventures. Susan J. Jacks and Joel Blum display slow-biz teamwork landing gags and selling their songs as Frank's smothering mother and laid-back father. A second-act highlight has Abby's meet-the-parents moment set to a pulsing tango.
Ian Michael Stuart is very funny, playing Abby's self-absorbed ex and a collection of similarly abrasive characters. Grounding the show with pleasant common sense is Frank's therapist, Samantha. This reviewer caught the last performance by the role's originator, the richly-voiced Lacretta, who's taken on a new gig as Gary Coleman in Off-Broadway's AVENUE Q.
While NEUROSIS is decidedly not the musical to see for a serious exploration of the human psyche, it's extremely enjoyable fluff, featuring a fun score, solid laughs and a terrific company. Check your hang-ups at the door. They'll still be there for you after curtain call.