Jonathan Spottiswoode's Above Hell's Kitchen, at the TBG Theatre, is a self-described "modern, gothic retelling of Mozart's Don Giovanni." Sadly, the work is so disjointed that aside from a womanizing protagonist and an awkwardly tacked on ending involving a statue, the show bears no resemblance to the world-renowned opera.
DJ (played by Spottiswoode) is a stereotypically promiscuous, aging musician who charms women despite (or maybe because of) his scrappy looks and mediocre abilities. His latest victim is the enchanting Isabel (Yasmeen Sulieman), a sweet, young photographer who wants a relationship with DJ but starts seeing Gary (George Merrick), an equally cocky mountain climber, when he won't commit.
The show begins with a number by Dr. Charity (Andrea Frierson), DJ's therapist and a seemingly minor character -- an odd choice that never pays off and is emblematic of the musical's mismatched structure. Indeed, songs come basically out of nowhere throughout the 100-minute running time . A particularly excruciating ditty, "That's What I Like," has DJ detailing his attraction to all different kinds of women. The lyrics are vague and the music abrasive, having the effect of a drunken vagrant who gets in your face to shout something nonsensical.
Early on, Isabel accuses DJ of "simplistic, intellectual masturbation" which is ironically and painfully true of the show. Spottiswoode's characters never transcend being mere mouthpieces for his exceedingly cynical opinions on the music business and relationships. Moreover, whatever substance is there is buried under convoluted plot lines. If Spottiswoode stops trying to be so cool, perhaps something real would have room to emerge.
-- Chris Kompanek