Gobotrick Theatre Company's Intermission isn't a musical but kind of a live concert with real musicians pretending to be characters in front of a pretend audience in front of a real audience
Reviewed by Patti Hadad, Fri., June 15, 2007
Dougherty Arts Center Theater, through June 16
Running time: 1 hr, 50 min
Let's get one thing straight: Gobotrick Theatre Company's Intermission is not a musical. The actors don't bounce unnaturally into song and dance in unison wearing silly little costumes. And the musicians don't just sit in a corner playing background music, rarely recognized or seen; they serve as the focal point of the show. Now, with Austin being the "you-know-what capital of the world," this obviously isn't the first time for musicians to be center stage but in a "theatrical setting." So what genre of theatre does Intermission fall into?
Maybe it's a live concert with real musicians pretending to be characters in front of a pretend audience in front of a real audience.
The Dougherty Arts Center space is converted into a smaller (if that's possible) and less smoky club than the Elephant Room, where a female singer is giving her last performance. During the interludes between songs, we catch glimpses of the interpersonal relationships of the people sitting at the tables watching her. And based on what we see, this clearly isn't happy hour "Oh, this is a little awkward" hour is more like it, since the connections between the fictional audience members seem to have been strained through intermissions of their own.
At one table, a daughter and father try to make amends after the mother has passed away. The young woman had started a book with her mother yet somehow didn't know her mother was fatally ill. At the next table, a girl and guy bump into each other for the first time in five years. After some long and painful conversations, the girl just wants to "stay friends." The scenes between them are so clumsy that even a child sitting in the actual audience started speaking up in their scenes together.
The soundtrack smooths over these uncomfortable moments with slow alterna-folk songs. It was a stroke of genius on the part of director Will Snider to ask Adam Hilton to create the score for the production. Hilton is a little bit of Elvis Costello with a youth and novelty that make him look like a passive Rivers Cuomo. (Maybe it's his glasses.) With the other two musicians in the band also sporting glasses, T-shirts, and jeans, they make for a nerdy trio that clashes with the young woman who exudes sex at the mic. April Perez may look like a little girl wearing a fancy doily and boots, but she belts like Sheryl Crow and Cher combined. (Even Cher could learn a thing or two from Perez's young, less quaky singing.) A couple of candy-covered tunes that feature the wholesome observations of a woman who has seen her share of love and loss really liven up the stage.
After Hilton wrote the music, the rest of Gobotrick came in to add the characters. Some of the best material can be credited to Michael Amendola, who plays Aidan. Providing the most comic relief, all-thumbs Aidan persistently hits on a girl who persistently pushes him away. Amendola owns the role, taking it where he wants to: improvising lines, stealing the scene during one of Perez's numbers, and even making the members in the band laugh. This scene that offers no backstory or complicated history lends more to the "play" than any of the melodrama, which is drowned out by the lyrically strong and wailing melodies.