Picture Incomplete, A New Musical! Starring Trent Armand Kendall
nytheatre.com review by Brad Lee Thomason
August 15, 2010
The loose story we're told in Picture Incomplete, a new musical written and performed by Trent Armand Kendall with a trio of talented musicians behind him, is not a new or original one: a young man moves away from his home to the big city to pursue his dreams and finds obstacles he didn't expect; and with the wisdom of some improbable characters he learns how to cope with the unpredictable world around him and eventually finds self-actualization through the struggle. No, the idea itself is not original, but this is Trent's story, these are his struggles; and the way he relates them in this 90 minute tour-de-force performance is very uniquely his.
We find Trent at the beginning of the show going through a big old chest of memories and self-medicating a slight depression caused by the realization that he is another year older and looking straight into the face of middle age. Although I may not be, as in Trent's case, a black homosexual who has battled with obesity, the questions he asks are easy for anyone to relate to: what have I accomplished? What does my life mean? Were the choices I made the right ones? Are the choices that I knew were wrong going to haunt me forever? Sure, I may never have to deal with the challenges that Trent faces, but he certainly doesn't claim to be a victim of circumstance. His message is we all have to face our demons eventually; and throughout this performance Trent faces his with a blend of humor, humanity, and self-awareness that is altogether endearing and delightful.
It doesn't hurt, by the way, that Trent is an extremely gifted performer with a show-stopping Broadway voice and some surprisingly soft shoes for a man of his build. It was probably also a good idea for him to team up with a host of other obviously talented artists like Michael Polese, who wrote the music, Greg Ganakas, who directs, and of course his band, Adam Klipple, Sam Minaie, and Michael Nappi, who back him up brilliantly. The talent of Kendall as a character actor is also striking as he personifies several people including his busybody upstairs neighbor, an over-the-top preacher, and a desperate homeless man. These could easily be reduced to caricatures in the hands of a lesser performer, but Trent makes all of them very genuine.
Although the show is strong in its more poignant moments (when he sympathizes with a down-on-his-luck homeless man or laments about his missed chances at fatherhood), it is especially successful when the reaction is unexpected—like the upbeat and snappy number "Walk-In Closet" where he deals with professing his homosexuality to friends and family. Although the gravity behind his problem isn't diminished, the song is of a type that makes it hard to keep from clapping along. This type of positive take on some of the more serious issues he addresses keeps the show from ever getting too dark, and kept me engaged and snapping along the whole time.
Picture Incomplete seems to be a bit of a magnum opus for Kendall, and is obviously a labor of love. His passion, his connection to the work, and his enthusiasm all show, and he delivers what can only be described as a truly excellent 90 minutes of live theatre and music.