Karen Hartman and Phil Lebovits' Dancing with Abandon, currently playing at Dixon Place, tells the tale of an opera diva and a punk rock poseur. But while this musical nods to those styles (and a host of others), the ultimate result is a pale pastiche.
We meet opera diva Alice Silverstein (Sandy Binion) on the day she is to receive her Kennedy Center Honor -- as fate would have it, it's also the day her long-since-abandoned son, Dwayne (Zachary Clause), turns up. We then flash back to an awkward upbringing story (Natalie Charle Ellis plays Young Alice) that has something to do with her own estranged father (Jonathan Andrew Kline), a Jewish mother (played neither straight nor with a twist by an African-American actress, Ronnica V. Reddick), a mystic connection with Maria Callas, and a tepid romance with an Italian yokel-cum-ventriloquist (Danny Beiruti).
What's heartbreaking is not just how much you can feel this show tugging for the heartstrings, but also how it wastes the talents of such veteran performers as Binion, whose lush soprano is shoehorned into a series of embarrassing numbers. However, Karla Mosely, an ensemble member with barely any solo time, puts on a clinic for other young actors. Her megawatt smile and seemingly effortless energy keep her afloat amidst the wreckage.
-- Adam R. Perlman