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The 27 Club

nytheatre.com review by Kimberly Wadsworth
August 11, 2012

Despite the title, Tommy Trull's The 27 Club—taking its name from the eerie list of pop stars who died at that age—doesn't deal that much with music. Rather, it deals with one hell of an Oedipus complex.

Things start with Martin (Patrick Ball), on the morning of his 27th birthday; he's just quit the band he used to sing for, and is now holed up in his Los Angeles apartment, ruminating over his rise to stardom, his troubled relationship with his father Howard (Trull, as well) and his longstanding desire to join the famous club, ever since hearing about it from his stepmother, Alice (Coleen Huley). And, since Alice is much closer to Martin in age than she is to Howard—he thinks of his longstanding, and reciprocated, desire for Alice as well. Using a series of flashbacks, and some intriguing dance and movement sequences, Trull's script deftly jumps back and forth from Martin's childhood struggles with his writer father to his present obsession with death, to charting Howard's own inept relationship with them both, to fleshing out Alice's own acceptance of mortality in art—and her horror at how very far Martin has fallen by the end of his 27th year.

The cast is uniformly excellent, from the sultry Huley to Ball, jumping easily from a boyish 13 year old to a weary 27. Two others—Brittany Polk and Daniel Harp—round out the ensemble, taking on various extra roles; both seem to especially have fun in the role of two fawning fans who appear to have nothing to do but follow Martin around from one bar to the next. But Trull's writing is a sixth star—there is one plot twist at the very end that I found a bit hard to swallow, but throughout I was struck by the inventiveness and poetry of much of what everyone was saying. Even when he's trying to write "badly"—in character as the pompous, overly-dense Howard—Trull still has a lot of poetry in this script...appropriately enough, as a number of poets are in "The 27 Club" as well.