Going Against The Norm
Falsettos is a musical from a book by William Finn and James Lapine, and music and lyrics by Finn, which is now at The James M. Nederlander Theatre. The story involves Marvin and his ex-wife Trina's marriage that's coming to an end. This story also includes Marvin's psychiatrist named Mendel, his son Jason, Marvin's lover Whizzer Brown, and his neighbors Cordelia and Dr. Charlotte. Marvin, who is visiting with his psychiatrist Mendel is fighting his feelings for his lover Whizzer and concerned about how to love him while still having a relationship with his son and ex-wife.
The diversity of relationships in this performance is what we see in today's new family structure and Falsettos desire to educate and entertain brought a mixture of delight and disgust. Though the numbers are changing, many Americans are still not as acceptable to same-sex relationships, and although many stood to applaud the performance, we saw and heard a lot of displeasure with some being confused and somewhat uninterested with the performance.
Falsettos, the musical premiered on Broadway in 1992, and was nominated for seven Tony Awards, won for the Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. The play starts off with ("Four Jews In A Room Bitching"), which we felt was a little awkward hearing a twelve-year-old boy saying the word bitch as if it was just another word he learned in grammar school. Marvin, the central character in the play, tries to rationalize his decision to leave his wife, pledging his love in his same-sex partner, Whizzer. Whizzer is a self-centered boy toy that Marvin concedes to having little in common with but they are intensely attracted to each other which they both confess in a song called ("The Thrill of First Love"); both worry that their feelings for one another are waning.
As Trina, fights with Marvin for leaving her for a man, Marvin suggests she visits Mendel, his psychiatrist, however, as Mendel listens to Trina, he falls in love with her and they soon marry. In the play, Mendel asks Marvin about Trina bedroom habits, which I'm sure was intended to have been funny, although somewhat bizarre to pay for therapy that leads to the psychiatrist marrying your ex-wife.
Falsettos, openly gay relationship with two men is nothing new in today's world of acceptance, but many of its issues are still prevalent and worthy of discussion. How will this different structure of the family affect those involved? Marvin and Trina's son Jason fears that his father's sexuality might affect him, and he will one day develop the same feelings. Jason, who sings a song called ("'My Father's a Homo'") seems to become withdrawn to his parents and even decides he doesn't want his Bar-Mitzvah to frustrate them. In an effort to help Jason, Marvin agrees to send his son to the same psychiatrist that married his ex-wife, Mendel. This may have been to save on the budget or something Finn decided to do for shock value, but it doesn't seem logical.
Part two provides some touching scenes of Whizzer and Marvin going through a life-threatening illness and Jason having his Bar-Mitzvah in the hospital to see Whizzer, but in its totality, the play's message gets lost within the humor.
Falsettos poignantly seeks to tell a story about how same-sex love relationships can overcome and deals with the same life obstacles as a heterosexual relationship. How a neurotic gay man and his narcissistic lover are the new modern family; even with a lesbian couple, living next door. With many countries still fervently opposed to same-sex relationships and even killing those that confess their love, the United States continuously embrace this new norm via a recent Gallup poll of 67% of Americans expressing their approval.
Launched in March 2019 under the direction of James Lapine who comes back to direct this infinite iteration that makes up a modern family starring Eden Espinosa as Trina alongside Max von Essen as Marvin and Nick Adams as Whizzer. Eden Espinosa as Trina is losing control over Marvin's decision to leave in her song ("I'm Breaking Down") was excellent as well as Nick Adams as Whizzer.
Many seasoned theater-goers who have seen Falsettos, will enjoy this heartrending play; however, we felt that the mishmash of trying to be humorous and serious didn't work. With us sitting further back where we could see most of the people in the theater, we were able to see many that got up to applaud, not wanting to look out of touch, were actually sleeping in the seats; missing its true meaning. This is definitely a play that will either have the audience elated or exhausted, but many will walk away feeling "Dazed and Confused."
We are going against the norm here, as Let's Play 'Somewhat Recommend' Falsettos.
James M. Nederlander Theatre Presents
Book by William Finn
Music and Lyrics by William Finn and James Lapine
Directed by James Lapine
Now through June 9, 2019
Runtime: 2 hours and 40 minutes with an intermission
Filed under: ChicagoNow