An embittered divorcee attempts to pen an opus on matrimony through the ages, while also looking for love herself, in My History of Marriage, playing at the Peter Norton Theatre. It's a cute premise but it's one that's unfortunately squandered by its creators Lee Kalcheim (book and lyrics), David Shire (music and lyrics) and Sal Kalcheim (additional material), who have overcrammed the piece with subplots (including one more engaging that the show's main arc) and digressions into cloying skits.
These latter moments come as the writer, Nan (played with strident vulnerability by Lois Robbins), sporadically works on her book and during these sequences -- including one about a cavewoman (also Robbins) attempting to enter her society's workforce -- audiences may find themselves cringing at the hoary jokes that can bring to mind the 1960s series Love, American Style.
The sense of the musical's indebtedness to this show -- and variety shows in general -- also extends to Nan's private life. During the course of the musical, she contends not only with her ex, Peter (Steve Blanchard), with whom she has a bit of "déjà screwing," but the sexual advances of publisher Henry (Brian Sutherland), to which she eventually succumbs, and the warm companionship offered by Rabbi Weiss (a delightful turn from Philip Hoffman), whom she meets while sharing a cab in the rain.
As if Nan's romantic woes were not enough, the show also examines the nuptial crises that her agent Judy (a delightfully puckish turn from Bonnie Franklin) faces with girlfriend Yvette (Blair Ross); and Nan's son Aaron (the winning Michael Liscio Jr.) finds himself falling for Nan's assistant Ellen (the utterly delightful Brittney Lee Hamilton). It's this latter couple that ends up winning audiences' hearts and ultimately stealing the show, not only because of the charming quirkiness they bring to their roles, but also because they're given the musical's most infectious melodic numbers, which are a welcome respite from the more dissonant and angst-ridden tunes that Shire has written for Nan.
-- Andy Propst