The Consuming Passions of Lydia Pinkham and Rev. Sylvester Graham
nytheatre.com review by Steven Slate
August 14, 2007
The program for The Consuming Passions of Lydia Pinkham and Rev. Sylvester Graham states that it's "a fictional, tongue-in-cheek tidbit of true American food history." And the postcard calls it a "musical treat" by writer/performer Margery Cohen. The show is a collection of mostly old songs and a few new ones performed Cohen and Joseph Neal as Lydia Pinkham and Sylvester Graham, respectively. These are real historical characters with a rich back story outlined in the program [Graham invented the Graham cracker]. In the show we see them meeting for the first time on a train ride from Boston to New York City, circa 1904. Throughout their meeting they burst into a total of 14 food-based songs with piano accompaniment.
I must say that these performers are wonderful, they are full of passion, their portrayals of these characters are spot-on, and their singing is top notch. Unfortunately the show itself never pulled me in. I'd say that it missed it's mark, but I don't know if it had a mark to hit. While these are quirky interesting characters, there was nothing in the show that made me care about them, the scenes, or the songs they were singing. It seemed like they gathered a bunch of songs which they thought these characters would sing and loosely tied them together. There isn't any storyline to speak of, and the quirkiness of the characters just isn't enough to carry this show. There were a few moments that had me laughing, such as a phallic sight gag and some other innuendos, and the songs were enjoyable. But in the end it just wasn't enough, and I wasn't sure if this was supposed to be a musical or just a collection of fun songs.
As a showcase for the talents of Neal and Cohen, though, this show does a good job: they are incredible performers and it shows. But as a show it just didn't hit me right. About half of the audience seemed to really enjoy the singing and dancing, and the other half looked to be as confused as I was.