Review: THE BALLAD OF KLOOK AND VINETTE Makes American Premiere at Horizon Theatre
A man with a criminal past, in search of nothing. A woman 20ish years younger with big dreams, in search of a new beginning. Is instant chemistry enough to keep them together? Horizon Theatre pursues the answer to this question in their newest premiere, THE BALLAD OF KLOOK AND VINETTE.
The show begins with a frantic Klook (Amari Cheatom) fleeing police lights, as he asks himself how he got there. Cue flashback. A three months younger Klook tells of his first meeting with Vinette (a lovable Brittany Inge), the woman of his dreams, and the relationship progresses over time. It sets up for Klook to finally be the man Vinette has been hoping for, who will love her for her ambition and crazy dreams and for him to find redemption from his sordid past. Neither promise ends up fulfilled, but the major gap sits in Klook's one-dimensional trajectory.
Book writer Che Walker (who also directed this production) tells the story almost entirely through narration, often alliterative, a la old noir films. The few dialogue sequences contradict their narrative counterparts, as the dialogue features a dreams-filled Vinette and a self-centered Klook, while in the narration, Vinette describes how deeply Klook understands her. This dissonance creates an unappealing romance that proves hard to connect with.
Walker's script also utilizes misplaced vernacular, assigning SAT words to his self-proclaimed undereducated characters. Such vocabulary may be feasible for Vinette, the aspiring author, but less for Klook, whose background also includes jail time and keeping company with criminals. As for Klook's criminal background, the conclusion throughout the show is that he can never really change. In the end, it turns out that guys who get mixed up with the wrong sort will always be low-lifes.
The soulful jazz tunes by Anoushka Lucas and Omar Lye Fook start to sound identical about two songs in and do not produce one hummable tune. The lyrics provide little artistic reprieve, with generic phrases and few direct references to the characters or specific circumstances. Music director/pianist Christian Magby and bassist/guitarist Maurice Figgins provide the most enjoyable and surprising moments in the show, as they enter the action to encourage Klook in his efforts to woo Vinette.
The disconnect felt between Klook's indifference to Vinette's strong passions is best summed up in Vinette's last line in which she mentions never learning Klook's real name, "But that's enough for me." Why exactly that's enough is unclear, but as an audience member, I couldn't figure out why Vinette stayed with him. Fortunately for her, he's out of the picture by the end, and the story I want to hear is what she does with her new found courage and freedom.
THE BALLAD OF KLOOK AND VINETTE runs through February 18. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.