Michael Winther andcellist David Gotay inSongs From an Unmade Bed
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
Michael Winther and
cellist David Gotay in
Songs From an Unmade Bed
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
Songs From an Unmade Bed has one performer and one lyricist, is only one hour long -- and it's the number one new musical of the new season. We know that's not saying much, given it's not even Memorial Day yet; but we'll be surprised if we're not saying the same thing come Labor Day, New Year's Day, and the last day of the 2005-2006 season. Of course, we hope there are a dozen new musicals that will surpass this one, but it will take some doing. The performer, Michael Winther, is unfailingly charming and deliciously talented. The lyricist, Mark Campbell, is refreshingly original and oh so smart. The one-hour length of the show unequivocably proves the truth of the expression that brevity is the soul of wit.

Campbell wrote these songs with 18 different composers, so the melodies are diverse in style. But that's all to the good because the narrative arc of Unmade Bed is intended to capture the various emotions of a man who is alone and wondering why. Happily, the tunesmiths recruited by Campbell are genuine melodists; even if some of the numbers are essentially art songs, they are very much in the spirit of musical comedy for the most part, so you'll be enjoying yourself too much to notice. Though Winther is playing a gay man, the themes of the show are universal.

The imaginative director David Schweizer refers to the piece as a "theatrical song cycle", but the only label that Unmade Bed needs and deserves is "Hit!" Elegant in its simplicity, poignant in its humanity, and hilarious in its off-kilter point of view, it is a triumph for all those involved.

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Lola Pashalinski and Laura Esterman in Terrorism
(Photo © Carol Rosegg)
Lola Pashalinski and Laura Esterman in Terrorism
(Photo © Carol Rosegg)
The Only Bomb Threat is the Play Itself

The current New Group production at the Clurman Theatre is titled Terrorism, but it could also be called Speeches. The Presnyakov Brothers, who wrote the piece (and Sasha Dugdale, who translated it from the Russian), have given us a play in which characters spout theories and climb upon soapboxes faster than they can take their clothes off -- which, in this case, is plenty fast. We hope this sort of didactic nudity is not a trend; it'll just ruin nudity.

Terrorism is plotted in a connect-the-dots format that's more tricky than profound. Worse, very few of the characters are real enough to make us care about their fates. In spite of the obstacles they face in this alternately intriguing and ponderous play about the ways in which we terrorize each other, the actors are often compelling. Elizabeth Marvel, in particular, brings some unexpected humanity to bear in her portrait of an adulterous wife who makes a very big mistake. It might be worth seeing the show for its performances; then again, it might not.

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Danielle Ferland and Remak Ramsay in She Stoops to  Conquer
(Photo © Carol Rosegg)
Danielle Ferland and Remak Ramsay
in She Stoops to Conquer
(Photo © Carol Rosegg)
Stoops Conquers Irish Rep Audience

The Irish Rep is offering theatergoers a handsome production of Oliver Goldsmith's 18th-century romantic farce, She Stoops to Conquer. Perhaps the most handsome aspect of the show is its open and elegant set, designed with a meticulous eye for detail by James Morgan. That set is unusually important because the central gag in the play is that the romantic hero is fooled into thinking he's arrived at an inn rather than the rural estate of his potential wife and her family. The place has to look as though it could be either an inn or an estate -- and it does.

The next and most important hurdle in presenting this piece is simply to make the audience laugh. Fortunately, director Charlotte Moore has assembled a winning cast. Setting the tone for the actors is that grand master Remak Ramsay; he's wonderful as Mr. Hardcastle, the owner of the estate and the father of Kate (Danielle Ferland), who has heard that the man she is supposed to wed is exceptionally shy and reserved. We learn, however, that young Marlowe (Brian Hutchison) is only shy in the presence of women of his class. Put him together with a barmaid, and he's a regular guy. Kate sees her chance to get to know her future husband by pretending to be a barmaid at the "inn." Meanwhile, Marlowe continually insults her father, whom he believes to be a pretentious innkeeper.

One of the pleasures of She Stoops to Conquer is the relationship between Hardcastle and his daughter. They like and respect each other, and the warmth of their familial attachment is refreshing. In fact, the tone of this entire production is amiable; the farcical elements are never too broadly stated, nor is the comedy pushed to a madcap pace. In other words, here is a farce that's a sweet diversion rather than an assault upon one's senses.

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[To contact the Siegels directly, e-mail them at siegels@theatermania.com.]