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Len, Asleep in Vinyl
The above statement is not necessarily a criticism. The works of Anton Chekhov are filled with similar characters. But while in Chekhov's work actions flow naturally from personality and history, Mensch and director Jackson Gay, move people around the stage with a wanton disregard for motivation and resolution.
Len (Michael Cullen) is a legendary but disillusioned music producer whose life and career bear an uncanny likeness to Phil Spector. As the play opens Len has retreated to a cabin in the woods"like a rock and roll Paul Bunyan." He's surrounded by his vintage electric guitars and record albums (the over fifty crowd will recognize a few famous covers).
Having just escaped from an awards ceremony, is still wearing sunglasses and a rumpled tux, when his son, Max (Daniel Eric Gold) barges in. At first, Max says he has been sent to check up on Len by his mother, who is island hopping on a fancy Caribbean cruise. But he soon reveals that what he really wants is Len's attention, something which his hypercritical, often nasty father has probably heretofore doled out rather sparingly. More specifically, Max wants Len to listen to a recording he made with his band, even though it is pretty clear his father is too busy dealing with his own demons to concern himself with his son's career.
Len is also visited by William (Dan McCabe), a local high school student who regards the music producer with something close to reverence and one of his pop creations, Zoe (Megan Ferguson). Zoe's actions in the play are confined to popping pills, complaining that she wants to write her own material, running around in skimpy shorts and torn, textured stockings — and behaving provocatively.
In the second act, Len's wife, Isabelle (Leslie Lyles), also pays a visit to the sylvan retreat. Max has summoned her away from her cruise after Len disappeared into the woods. Lyles' wacky, sardonic performance is the one shining spot in the play, the one time when the play rises above the flip, telegraphic dialogue of a too-cute writer.
Unlike the pliable, Zoe, Isabelle is able to resist her husband's manipulation. She matter-of-factly considers what she wants done with Len's remains should he turn up dead. When Max returns and she fails to convince him to act like a responsible father, she does the only thing left to her — leave. Unfortunately, Lyle takes with her the best and brightest Mensch has to offer.
Len, Asleep in Vinyl has a unit set and much unnecessary loud rock music between scenes. If moving quickly is a worthwhile goal, the show deserves an A. But don't be fooled. There's not much beneath all those people running in and out of Len's cabin and his life.
Once upon a time, people were presumed good, and playwrights had to give their characters reasons for misbehaving. Nowadays, people are assumed to be venal, selfish and sometimes cruel. No explanations are necessary. Nor are playwrights obliged to resolve the untenable positions they create for their characters. Perhaps all that has become the job of the audience. One wonders what Chekhov would say.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
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Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide