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The duo of Ted Stafford and Lorinda Lisitza is at once a throwback to the the glory days of folk duos and a strong example of the new generation of cabaret--one that is decidedly casual and focused on pop music rather than jazz or standards. Their recent hour-long set at Don't Tell Mama, which will be repeated on March 6, combined some modern classics and standards (Maurice Sendak and Carole King's "Pierre") with original pieces ("Bathtub at the Beverly Hills Hotel") for an alternately irreverent and somber take on the darker side of life.

With song titles like "Evil," "Monster" and "John Wayne Gacy, Jr.," (which rather fit together, come to think of it) the cabaret, aptly entitled This May Hurt A Bit, revels in the brighter side of darkness, with plenty of mischievous glee to balance the subject matter. Pop standards like "When I'm 64" lighten the mood, and Lisitza and Stafford's and affectionate banter keep the evening from becoming too moody. Moreover, the team's intricate tenor/alto harmonies are especially lovely, and add some nice complexity to the numbers.

Some of the strongest songs in the cabaret are newer pieces: Stafford and Lisitza wrote several numbers themselves, including "Monster," "Cold-Blooded" and the title song, a haunting melody that was greeted with the silence of rapt attention at the end. (Several numbers were poignant and powerful enough that no one in the audience wanted to break the mood with applause.)

Balancing humor and drama is a tricky tightrope for the best writers and songwriters, and this is where Stafford and Lisitza excel. Since (at least) her Nightlife Award-winning concert of songs by Joe Iconis and Robert Maddock several years ago, Lisitza has proven herself an expert in finding the lighter side of disturbing subject matter. Stafford, for his part, also sings very well and provides the sole musical accompaniment on one acoustic guitar. (The single instrument only goes to further distinguish this cabaret from the more traditional piano-backed format.)

The duo ends the evening with two decidedly bittersweet songs-"The Heart of the Matter" and "Hopelessly Yours"--and emphasize the sense of loss in each. But these songs are not just about grief; they're about survival and resilience and hope, and for all the darker elements of This May Hurt a Bit, the final impression of the show is decidedly positive and optimistic.

The Ted & Lo Show will return to Don't Tell Mama at 7pm on March 6.

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From This Author Jena Tesse Fox

Jena Tesse Fox is a lifelong theatre addict who has worked as an actress, a singer, a playwright, a director, a lyricist, a librettist, and (read more...)