Joe Masi and Lori Prince
in Lyric Is Waiting
(© Ry Pepper)
Joe Masi and Lori Prince
in Lyric Is Waiting
(© Ry Pepper)
Fairy tale imagery, magic realism, and pop psychology collide awkwardly in Michael Puzzo's Lyric Is Waiting, now playing at the Irish Repertory Theatre. Puzzo has assembled a richly diverse array of elements and given his play an intriguingly unconventional structure, but instead of putting a new spin on a story of a man and a woman drawn into a combustible romance, he's created a play that proves unsatisfying and often cloys.

The work begins at the end of the relationship between Ned (Brit Whittle) and Lyric (Lori Prince). They may have once met cute but their marriage has turned into a grueling existence for them both. She's haunted by delusions that often leave her hysterical and incapacitated in the house. Ned attempts to understand her and placate her. He goes to the library to check out books on her obsession -- Bigfoot --- and while he's there, the Librarian (Kelly McAndrew) becomes not only his guide to the place, but also to his life with Lyric.

The show deliberately blurs the timeline of events that it presents. It's clear enough that Ned and Lyric's happy moments occurred in the past. More difficult to piece into the story's chronology are Lyric's encounters at home with a tall dark stranger (Joe Masi) whom she hopes will prove different from all of the other men in her life. That Lyric chooses to call this guy "Popo" -- although he wants to be called "Kevin" -- is a pretty clear indication of the sort of man Lyric's looking for, even before Lyric reveals her idealized view of her father.

Unfortunately, director Adam Fitzgerald's staging does little to illuminate the less distinct aspects of Puzzo's script, even if he does bring the episodic play to life with a certain flair. (Credit for this also belongs to Joel Sherry's fanciful forest-like scenic design and Christopher J. Bailey's atmospheric lighting design.) Fitzgerald has also elicited dramatically uneven performances from his cast. Most successful is McAndrew, whose turn as the pertly knowing Librarian always manages to evoke a laugh, or at least a smile. This character may be a figment of Ned's imagination, but McAndrew's performance has a wonderfully quixotic quality to it that makes the Librarian seem both real and ethereal.

Unfortunately, Masi's turn as the man in Lyric's life goes to the opposite extreme. His generally monotone readings of lines like "No little one. That is why I am here" make the character seem like a bad B-movie cliché. As the play's mercurial title character, Prince can exude charm and danger, and in a series of exceptionally flattering costumes from designer Jessica Pabst, always looks stunning. Unfortunately, in Lyric's more fiery moments, Prince's performance turns uncomfortably shrill, giving the character an unflattering psychotic edge. This trait makes it difficult to understand why Ned, played amiably by Whittle, spends such a long time striving to make a relationship with Lyric succeed.