CRITIC'S PICK / The Story of My Life / book by Brian Hill; music & lyrics by Neil Bartram /directed by Nick DeGruccio/ Lillian Theatre/ through April 4
Two character plays either work effectively or not at all. There's no in between. It takes a tight rapport between the actors to create a believable scenario. Chad Borden and Robert J. Townsend have such a chemistry that works divinely in The Story of My Life, a musical drama that is sweetly poetic and universally relevant. Havok Theatre's loving production could not be better.
Passionatey directed by Nick DeGruccio, oddball Alvey (Borden in his finest work to date) and handsome, boy-next-door Tom (Townsend, resplendent at very moment) dance with and around each other in perfect tempo, making current and past feelings come to alarmingly vibrant life. Childhood friends, although they are apart for many of the later years - Tom moves away and becomes a famous writer; Alvin stays behind in the small town of their birth to run his father's bookstore - are spiritually linked to one another. Alvey introduces Tom to Tom Sawyer as a boy, inducing in him the desire to write professionally. Alvey lights a creative spark... and more. His love for Tom runs deep. It's a love that Tom is unprepared to accept, and he keeps Alvey at a safe distance. But, are writing deadlines the real reason for the postponement of his impending marriage to fiance Anne, or is it rather a bewildered preoccupation for his relationship with Alvey?
When called upon to write the eulogy for his friend, Tom cannot put his feelings into words until Alvey's spirit goads him on, as he did in life - to create his very best work. "This is it. Look around you. Write what you know." Whether Tom changes his mind regarding his unrequited homosexual love of Alvin seems irrelevant in the end. What counts is his eternal remembrance of him. The piece reminds us that Details survive, but people disappear. We must keep their memories alive through word and deed, for no one's life, famous or not, is trivial. In fact, the life of the lesser known, small-town individual is often richer in detail. Alvey's father, told through Alvey's memories of him is a typcial example of an ordinary, yet extraordinarily gifted man, whose talent deserves a story all its own. The simplest of activities, like children making angels in the snow, has a built-in unequalled magic.
Praise to Tom Buderwitz's set with floor to ceiling bookshelves on two sides and a high platform that crosses from one to the other, creating a bridge that evocatively serves both past and present events.
This is a very personal message play rich in detail and with meaningful tunes - not unlike Stephen Sondheim - that touches our very hearts. It made me, as both a writer and friend, want to pen a story about my boyhood pal Jerry Sullivan, who has remained angelically at my side since his passing. His loyalty means so very much to me, and our story will be told. Many thanks to Hill, Bartram and Havok Theatre for this important contribution to my life.
Hopefully, most will relate to the play's theme in their own special way, gifting future generations with the stories of their lives.
5 out of 5 stars