nytheatre.com review by Ryan Emmons
August 14, 2009
As I walked into the Minetta Lane Theatre, magic was already in the air. Peter Martino's set design for Hint, "a Murderous New Musical," is miraculous. Sitting in my seat, it seemed that everyone was buzzing about it, but the young boy sitting in front of me said it best, "this set is huge, I didn't think Fringe shows had real sets." It is not that this set is that elaborate, but how Harriman Productions set up three walls, a full bar, a staircase, two book shelves, and a few small platforms in 15 minutes is truly a magic trick.
Hint is expectantly formulaic, but it is a formula well tested and loved. The book and lyrics by Joe Maloney and Bonnie Milligan (with music by Maloney) along with the sharp direction of Halina Ujda embrace this formula head on and bring joy, humor, and a surprising amount of sincerity to this Clue-like musical.
The talented cast has as much fun as the audience, as they sing and dance their way to their deaths. The musical consists of 11 stock characters, from the floozy French maid to the eerie stalker guy and the cast handles these characters well. Each actor takes these characters we know well, and turns them into unique personas. Although many of the actors are vocally strong (Bonnie Milligan as Thelma, the awkward girl with a lisp, and Krista Kutzberg as Ursula, the entirely vacant ingenue, are particular standouts), it is the blend of all of these very human, real, and distinct voices that strikes a chord. Another actor that is certainly worth a mention is Patti Perkins, who plays the clever and grounded Martha. Perkins has the ability to create comedic moments and then, at the drop of a hat, change the tone of a scene to a serious moment.
Maloney's music has great potential, but it still feels like a work in progress. Several songs seemed to abruptly stop halfway through, and the audience was unsure when to applaud. But still, this is a musical that could have a healthy life well beyond the FringeNYC Festival.
Hint wins the audience with its sincerity and heart. Watching these actors be silly and indulge in well-expected theatrics is an important reminder that theatre is fun, a smile is contagious, and that sometimes it is the familiar that can surprise us. This is a Fringe show that is certainly worth a look, even if you find the story a little cliched, there's always the set...which most Fringe shows would kill for.