Together This Time
nytheatre.com review by Nathaniel Kressen
August 19, 2010
Together This Time: A New Rock Musical tells the story of Jay, a writer who achieved early recognition but is struggling to follow it up. He grinds away at an 800-page novel without an ending in sight, at the same time distancing himself from the people in his life. He ignores his girlfriend's pleas to leave Colorado and return to New York City, so she goes without him and promptly finds a new boyfriend. Finding himself even more at a loss without her, he pursues her, only to be intercepted by her father Edward, also his publisher, who redirects him to focus on finishing the book instead. Meanwhile, the characters from said novel appear occasionally, living out the carefree life Jay wishes he led. As the musical progresses the interludes more closely resemble Jay's actual problems, and eventually inspire him to overcome them.
At its core, Together This Time looks to be a dual love story. The first is between Jay and his estranged girlfriend Emily, however because her new relationship is staged to more closely resemble true love than a rebound fling, it proves difficult to root for their reconciliation. The second is between Jay and his novel-in-progress, which proves equally difficult to invest in. In the early scenes he is portrayed as a tortured artist fighting for inspiration, yet it is hard to understand why. His plot concerns a teenage couple departing their small town to see the world—a relatively G-rated concept that never delves into darker subject matter. While Jay's editor and publisher proclaim the brilliance of his story, I found it difficult to share the same enthusiasm based solely on the selected scenes.
In several areas, the production shows need for further development. Zac Kline's script has some gaps in logic, the lyrics by Kline and Andrew Heyman feel contrived at points, and the music by Heyman plays more often like a minimalist soundtrack than the foundation of a rock musical. Direction by Troy Miller can be disorienting, with multiple locations often converging mid-scene without explanation. Two musical numbers prove memorable: "It's Love," in which Edward helps his daughter realize she's still in love with Jay, and "Goodbye," the lone song that meets the rock musical quota, in which Jay bounds about the stage belting along with a forceful accompaniment.
The cast is uneven, with Emily Olson and Ron Bopst delivering noteworthy performances. In the lead role of Jay, Jonathan Whitton comes across as tense. His voice is often off-key or flat, except for a brief moment when Jay sings lightly to himself while preparing to write. There, his vibrato shines through effortlessly, leading me to believe that the tightness of his performance is more a lack of relaxation than a lack of ability.
The show's central conflict is a compelling one: a writer perpetually caught between two worlds must finally reconcile which is most important—his work or his life. However, as the production stands, it needs further clarification. Looking forward, I would encourage the creative team to re-examine the desired impact for each scene and song, and evaluate how well it achieves that goal.