Terms Of Dismemberment: A Musical With Heart...And Other Body Parts
nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
August 19, 2010
Don't be misled by the title or the plot synopsis. There's very little dismemberment in Terms of Dismemberment, a "dark musical comedy" that's missing something more crucial than body parts: a good book and score.
Blame falls not on the cast or director (three-time Tony winner Hinton Battle), but squarely on the writers, Dorothy Marcic (book/lyrics), Frank Sanchez (music), and Mehr Mansuri (additional material).
The promotional plot synopsis details Mafia debts, a dead husband, three mortgages, and a Mama Rose-like mother who's more than willing to sell off her daughter's body parts. But this isn't necessarily true. There is a Mother, named Queenie, with two daughters, named Abstinence and Chastity, who doesn't have the money to bury her dead husband, so he's in a box in their house, that eventually gets repossessed, because of the three mortgages and the fact that talentless, skill-less Queenie loses whatever money she has after a variety of get-rich-quick schemes. There are no Mafia debts, and no limbs get sold. Abstinence, who runs away to get married, leaves Chastity to get stuck selling her eggs, liver, intestines and a kidney.
No limbs are severed, making the title a misnomer. But that's the least of the show's problems, which start with Marcic's meandering book, with holes you can drive a truck through. She asks for sympathy for these characters, but feeling sympathy for deadbeats is generally impossible. Sanchez's unmemorable score sounds exactly like any other Broadway wannabe score—soaring anthems, production numbers, and the like—but they don't stem from any sort of necessity, the characters just start to sing.
The cast is game, and they sell this material like their life depends on it. The standout is Kevin T. Collins as a crazy pothead tree-hugger named Sequoia. Mary Jo Mecca has nice moments as Queenie, as do Alex Michaels as a variety of characters, and Thomas Poarch as a gun-toting maniac. Laurie Veldheer and Ashley Campana are grating as Abstinence and Chastity, respectively.
Director-choreographer Battle brings a strange cohesion to the material. It certainly is well-enough directed, and the choreography is a strong point. He creates one outrageously funny moment out of a jaunty, forgettable song about egg donation, involving a series of Ping-Pong balls aimed at the audience.
Not a nice way to repay the crowd for staying, but amusing nonetheless.