Queens Boulevard (the musical)

Theater rarely conveys a vivid sense of place; unlike films, plays can’t be shot on location. Which makes it all the more impressive that Signature Theatre Company’s production of Queens Boulevard (the musical) actually feels like a walk down the play’s titular thoroughfare. Sure, Mimi Lien’s busy set is filled with tacky signage, vendors’ carts, and assorted ethnic knick-knacks, while the varied soundtrack mixes bhangra, Asian pop, and an assortment of other tunes from all over the global village. These carefully-observed details, however, combine to create an effect far removed from documentary realism. Davis McCallum’s frequently fun production, performed by a likeable multi-racial ensemble, defies naturalism to capture the essence of New York’s most diverse borough.

Theatrical collagist Mee typically works by reconfiguring classic works and other found sources, here using an Indian dance-drama about a bridegroom’s quest for a mystical flower to give his new wife. Mee and McCallum have gamely set out to imitate the ritual form of non-Western theater, giving precedence to dance, song, and picaresque storytelling. If only there were more ritual and less talk: our protagonist encounters a series of friends and neighbors who discourse with him (often at great length) about the meaning of love and the fabric of community. With its cheek-by-jowl juxtaposition of cultures, Queens offers Mee a brimming metaphor, but the repetitive episodes and speeches eventually succumb to the law of diminishing returns. Imagine walking down the street only to have every Tom, Dick, and Hrishikesh tell you what they think of your marriage; you'd be only too eager to get back home.

*The Signature Theatre Company, as is their wont, is devoting an entire season to the work of one playwright, Charles Mee. You can find out more about him.
**Mee's scripts are all in the public domain. He encourages people to produce and mess around with them.



Post a Comment

<< Home