BWW Reviews: Ryness, Sun Give Winning Performances in LONG STORY SHORT
Two-person musicals seem to be back in style these days, what with the film release of The Last Five Years and the Off-Broadway revival of John & Jen. But the new one by Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda, Long Story Short, is more reminiscent of one that started it all, I Do! I Do!.
Like that 1960s version of Jan De Hartog's The Fourposter, Long Story Short is based on a play - David Schulner's An Infinite Ache - and like the De Hartog original, the play spans decades of a relationship with a set dominated by a large bed.
When we first meet Hope and Charles, they're ending what he believes is their first date, but what she only saw as having dinner with a friend's friend as a nice gesture to welcome someone new in town.
In roughly ninety minutes we see a version of the next 50 years going by; dating, living together, careers, marriage, children, tragedy, separation, terminal illness and a nice little twist. The authors swiftly cover each episode by getting to the main point of each scene and quickly changing to the next, with director Kent Nicholson and lighting designer Grant W. S. Yeager making the transitions cute and seamless.
The fun and lively contemporary chamber score is full of conversational songs that also get to their main points and then segue into dialogue or another song. There are no applause breaks or extended musical moments, so the evening feels like a story-telling medley.
While the concept is effective, the text is lacking. There's an abundance of false rhymes sticking out and the characters lean toward cliché'; Charles is Jewish, neurotic, open-hearted and an aspiring writer who spends more time working at his survival job and Hope, of Chinese descent, is sensible, emotionally guarded and a reliable breadwinner.
But Pearl Sun and Bryce Ryness both offer winning performances. Their attractive singing voices are appropriately of the pleasant, everyday people variety, with Ryness making the awkward but earnest Charles an endearing puppy dog and Sun, who is given the stronger acting moments, keeping the bottled-up Hope sympathetic as she continually works toward her life goals.
They keep Long Story Short a charming tale, despite its stumbles.