Inner Voices: Review Roundup

Alexandra Silber

In 2008, inspired by Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, Premieres inaugurated Inner Voices: Solo Musicals. This year’s collection, the third biennial presentation in the series, included Arlington (book and lyrics by Victor Lodato, music by Polly Pen), directed by Jack Cummings III and starring Alexandra Silber; Borrowed Dust (book and lyrics by Martin Moran, music by Joseph Thalken), directed by Jonathan Butterell and starring Hunter Foster; and Farhad or The Secret of Being (book and lyrics by Nilo Cruz, music by Jim Bauer), directed by Saheem Ali and starring Arielle Jacobs.

Michael Feingold (Village Voice): A one-character musical raises two basic theatrical questions: Who is the person singing to, and what can possibly happen that’s worth singing about? … The first, Borrowed Dust, by Martin Moran, shows a young man describing, presumably to us, the events and feelings that followed his younger brother’s death in a Colorado mountain town. The events are interesting; their narration is clear and feelingly delivered. … Victor Lodato’s Arlington, music by Polly Pen, also mainly conveys information, this time psychological. … Short on data, the piece frustratingly lacks forward motion. … Farhad, or The Secret for Being, by Nilo Cruz, masters the form by simply answering the questions.

Adam Feldman (Time Out): Good things may come in threes, but not all things that come in threes are good. Inner Voices, a triptych of solo musicals, contains one highly accomplished piece: the middle panel, Arlington, in which the prodigiously gifted Alexandra Silber plays a soldier’s wife with a dawning sense of her husband’s darkness. … Arlington is bookended, however, by two less successful attempts at musical monologue. Martin Moran and Joseph Thalken’s meandering Borrowed Dust … has the feel of a loud drama-therapy session, and not a breakthrough one. And although Arielle Jacobs brings full-throated intensity to the role of a Muslim girl who has been raised as a boy in Farhad, or The Secret of Being, Nilo Cruz’s libretto provides uneven support for Jim Bauer’s evocative, well-arranged music.

Anita Gates (N.Y. Times): This sweet, sobering drama [Arlington], by Polly Pen and Victor Lodato, the poignant standout in the latest production in the Premieres series Inner Voices. … The opening musical, Borrowed Dust, by Joseph Thalken and Martin Moran, is a straightforward study of grief. Maybe too straightforward. … The songs (they actually feel like one long, long number) emit strong hints of Sondheim, but there is a deadly sameness to them. … Arielle Jacobs closes out the evening in Farhad, a disturbing and intriguing portrait of a gender-identity crisis. … The lyrics sometimes threaten to be obvious (“I want to be more than just a girl”) but then take sudden, sharp turns into insight (“With something more to do than hide”).

David Gordon (Theater Mania): The selections in Inner Voices are not all triumphs, but each contains the same primary virtue: a remarkably acted and sung performance. … In Martin Moran and Joseph Thalken’s Borrowed Dust, the least successful of the three pieces … Foster gives one of his strongest performances to date … but the actor is let down by Moran’s book and lyrics … and a needlessly complicated score by Thalken. More successful is Arlington, written by Polly Pen and Victor Lodato. … Director Jack Cummings III guides the first-rate Silber through a remarkably nuanced and gorgeously sung performance. … Farhad or The Secret of Being … is not only the most intriguing of the three pieces, it is the only one that could actively benefit from being expanded into a full-length musical.

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