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The Capital Mall

Promo art for Capital Mall
The Capital Mall, a rock-opera about a group of twenty-somethings entering the corporate world, tries to be an Everyman story about life in capitalist society. But the characters are so ludicrous, the plot is so implausible, and the settings are so phony that it would be difficult to find any half-way realistic character or experience in it.

Written and composed by Eric Jaimes, the show is set in the headquarters of a mall in Brooklyn Heights, where a team of dedicated youngsters is in charge of security. Mostly, they're just trying to kill time: Johnny (Max Ferguson) is engaged to marry Marlene (Sheena Marie Ortiz), and the other employees take turns trying to break them up. Shari (Rachel Soll) unsuccessfully flirts with the groom, while Milo (Lee Cavellier) tries to put the moves on the bride. Later, they all talk about Joanne's (Katie Vagnino) cat coughing up hairballs until their cartoonish boss, Mr. Lamoravariss (Michael Briatico), turns up and shows everyone the robot that he bought to spy on them.

It's hard to sympathize with these put-upon kids when they're all caricatures. Half of them are such slackers that any boss in his right mind would fire them; the others are so gung-ho about their middle management jobs that it defies explanation. Case in point: They stop just short of giving each other high fives after they nab a criminal -- a stereotypically flamboyant homosexual wearing a silk robe -- who tries to buy women's lingerie with fraudulent checks. (GLAAD would not be amused.) Thing get even more ridiculous when Johnny and Marlene go to the promenade on their lunch break to observe the gritty world around them; apparently, these longtime New York residents are shocked by the existence of homeless people.

From a technical standpoint, the show's a mess. Set changes in between scenes last nearly as long as the scenes themselves. Eric Jaimes, who also directs, might have intended to use these interludes to show off the back-up band, but their music can't hold the audience's attention. The sound system, which calls for the actors to wear Rent-style headsets, makes the volume of the dialogue and the singing range from inaudible to deafening. The opening number is completely garbled.

As for the score: If the music of the '80s is indeed "back," The Capital Mall has killed and buried it. The band does its best Guns N' Roses impression, even adding an electric guitar solo to a folk ballad titled "Listen to the Hippie." During this number, the actor playing the hippie fakes strumming an acoustic guitar -- which, at the Off-Broadway level, should be as unacceptable as lip-synching.

Scott Aronow's set is bland but functional. Carolyn Pallister's costumes -- including a hodgepodge of button-down shirts, Converse sneakers, outrageous perms, loud colors, and many stripes -- could be used for a VH1 special on misguided '80s fashions. Jeffrey E. Salzberg's flashy lighting is somewhat distracting, but that's a relief in this musical. The best that can be said for Dana Fisch's simplistic choreography is that nobody got hurt during the performance I attended, but I was nervous for the actors during a circular dance that devolved into a deformed egg shape.

The first act ends with a cliffhanger: Shari storms through the promenade, worried about paying her rent and talking about the boss's latest memo. What did the memo say? Was she fired? Did she suffer a pay-cut? On the other hand, does it matter? After all, Shari was the one flirting with her co-workers at the beginning of the play. From the looks of things, she's a lousy employee -- and the rest of the characters are so two-dimensional that it's hard to care what happens to any of them.

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