What's Your Problem?!
nytheatre.com review by Jaime Robert Carrillo
July 25, 2005
What’s Your Problem?, playing at the 3rd Annual Fresh Fruit Festival, is a new musical revue cheerfully focusing on gay culture, while making light of life, love and relationships in general. It starts off with a successful tongue-in-cheek prologue about exposing the private problems each audience member hides by singing about the troubles onstage in front of all. The good-natured warning makes clear that no problem is safe from the inevitable ridicule and clever lyrics of the show.
Lyricist Hector Coris and composer Paul L. Johnson, two long-time collaborators, have created a well-built musical revue. The lyrics truly impress: they’re intelligent, witty, and at the same time scan extraordinary well with the music. For example, “There’s a Pansy in the Garden” is a humorous ditty about a group of neighbors and their resentment towards a gay English man in their garden. The unassuming target of resentment incorrectly believes his neighbors are complaining about an actual pansy flower planted somewhere in the garden, which he tries to find to no avail. The evening continues with fun tunes of a gay man’s excitement of finding a date among the myriad of sailors during “Fleet Week,” a gay couple’s indecisive ballad of whether to marry or continue in gay bachelordom in “If We Were Gay-Married,” and a young woman’s self-help recognition that being single can only end by expanding her selection in “Lowering My Standards.”
In terms of production values, it’s a simple and scaled-down offering. The lighting design and staging are basic, not artistic, and the costumes appear to be clothing pulled from the actors’ own closets. There is no set, not that there needs to be one necessarily, but the barren look of this production is especially noticeable given the lack of dramatic staging or any measure of choreography. Coris and Johnson should consider collaborating with a theatrical director for a future mounting of this project. For instance, a director could have told him that the actors backstage were completely visible to the audience many times during the show at moments when they shouldn’t have been seen. The backstage shuffling is distracting, taking attention away from an otherwise mellifluous tune on stage.
Throughout the evening, Coris is a charming master of ceremonies, as he narrates an occasional anecdote about a song’s history or tells a joke as a segue. His cabaret experience is apparent, and he has enough charismatic stage quality to do a one-man show.
The other featured actors are Travis Bloom, Matthew Myers, and Dawn Trautman. Myers is a spectacular singer, and the strongest performer of this ensemble. His stirring rendition of “Find It In Your Heart”, a comical and wishful song about an enemy finding sharp objects like a blade in his heart, is unforgettable. It’s a song of revenge which Myers performs with vocal mastery and deserves the biggest applause. Bloom and Trautman are uneven singing individually, but fare well in group harmony.
Overall, this musical is fun-seeking, entertaining, and droll at times, though perhaps slightly overpriced at $20 for the evening.