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I Do! I Do!

a Musical
CATEGORY :
by Tom Jones & Harvey Schmidt

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Roswell Cultural Arts Center
ID# 3201

SHOWING : November 06, 2008 - November 23, 2008

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

From the guys who brought you the beloved show, "The Fantasticks," this musical gem celebrates a lifetime of marriage over 50 years. A timeless musical treasure.


CAST & CREW LIST
Choreographer Robert Egizio
Director Joe Gfaller
Musical Director Kevin Sanders
Michael Jonathan MacQueen
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REVIEWS

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Ordinary People
by Dedalus
Monday, December 8, 2008
3.0
Ordinarily, I would hesitate to guide my reactions based on an arbitrary list of critical standards or “rules” for fear of not being open to trend-setting “outside-the-box” concepts or scripts or ideas.

Ordinarily, I would be prone to give a weakly-constructed script a “pass” if the production itself were well-designed and well-performed.

Ordinarily, if I see a play about marriage on my actual 10th Anniversary, I would be in a frame of mind to fall into a whimsical romantic stupor and accept anything that comes my way.

Ordinarily, I would praise a piece that weaves a tapestry of a life, that covers so many years that we see characters grow and change.

But sometimes, a show is just too darn ordinary. Sometimes, a script has just too few surprises and covers ground blazed and followed by too many other plays. Sometimes, scenes have just too little conflict, too much contrivance. Sometimes, the characters in a multi-year story see just too little change.

Such is the case with the 1966 musical “I Do! I Do!” by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, the same team that brought us “The Fantasticks.” Based on an earlier play by Jan de Hartog, this is a two-character piece that traces the 50-year course of a marriage as seen in the bedroom of Michael and Agnes (Jonathan MacQueen and Agnes Harty).

The scenes are a veritable compendium of marriage-plot clichés – awkward “first night,” passionate early years, first child, second child, first affair, kids growing up, kids growing apart, empty nest, moving on. In spite of great chemistry between the stars, I found this couple so blandly ordinary, so lacking in individuality or even crisis, I found myself wondering just why we were watching their story, what it was about them that was supposed to hold our interest.

If it was a celebration of their very ordinariness, a statement that every marriage is exactly the same, that every couple faces the exact same challenges, then that’s an idea I categorically reject. Personally, I’m not interested in stories about how we’re alike, but in how we’re unique. What makes these characters different? What makes them worth our time? What makes watching this play better than reading a journal of our own marriages?

If it was a celebration of ordinariness in the sense that that is somehow better than eccentricity or “blazing new trails,” then that’s another idea I categorically reject. From a dramaturgical standpoint, since the only couple we see are Michael and Agnes, we have no “frame of reference,” no comparison to let us know why their choices are better or more “quintessentially human” than alternatives.

If it was a celebration of Agnes and Michael, as if they somehow exemplified marriage in general, as if we were supposed to see ourselves in their lives and struggles (such as they were), then, again, I categorically reject it. Not to put too blunt a point on it, but these are the most boring people you’re likely to see on stage. My own marriage and those of my siblings and friends are all infinitely more interesting, infinitely more DIVERSE than anything we’re seeing on stage here.

These are, in fact, not ordinary people, but a bad writer’s idea of ordinary people – this is, to all appearances, a couple who was given a very short “manual for marriage” and who insists on following it to the letter. It is a significant detail that director Joe Gfaller moved the action from the first half of the twentieth century to the second, yet no real adjustments had to be made to the language, the situations, or the design. This is a couple totally unaffected by the times in which they live, totally apart from the trends and styles and cultural touchstones that define real life. They could be any couple living at any time, in their own contrived cultural vacuum. This is, I suppose, the point, but again, it’s a point I categorically resist, a point that, in my opinion (and experience) is not only invalid, but vaguely insulting.

Still and all, this is a beautifully designed production (apart from a few downstage lighting shadows) – a frame set is translucent to a colorful cyclorama, the bed itself, while only nominally a “four-poster,” is still a great “anchor” to the action and relationship. As I said before, Ms. Harty and Mr. MacQueen have a nice chemistry, age convincingly, and sing beautifully. The songs themselves are nice, in their ordinary way (I confess to a long-standing fondness for “My Cup Runneth Over”), and there are enough laughs that you will have a fairly decent time, if you go.

That being said, I wish some of the (too few) conflicts were resolved more imaginatively, more of the “bumps in the road” surprising and not-so-ordinary, and the characters less every-couple and more THIS-couple.

I don’t consider my lovely and talented spouse and myself in any way out-of-the mainstream, but, if it doesn’t sound too conceited, I think we are much more interesting Agnes and Michael, have faced more interesting challenges, and are more inclined to go “outside the box” than to do what is expected. I would say the same about most couples I know.

Could this play simply be a dinosaur that has outlived its relevance? Could it be that the sixties was such a culturally diverse era that a celebration of the ordinary was not only appropriate, but desired? Could be! Now, though, I find it too much “been-there seen-that” for a full recommendation.

And, to end on a thematically personal note, Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart, may the next ten years be just as interesting as the first, and Thank You for NOT being an Ordinary Person!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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The Last 35 Years
by Okely Dokely
Thursday, November 20, 2008
3.5
This was my second time seeing a production of IDID, and I forgot how little I care for the music. This may just fall into the "if I give it time and repeated listenings, it'll grow on me" pile, but I found most of the music forgettable, and some of it downright annoying. It's hard to believe this music was written by the same guys who did The Fantasticks - my favorite musical ever. The dialogue is so cogent and captivating, but then the show screeches to a clumsy halt every time a song starts. Makes me want to go see a production of The Fourposter, which is the play this musical is based on. [And GET has indeed done that show.]

As for Georgia Ensemble's production, they certainly did what they could with it. The set, lighting, accompaniment, sound, confetti, and direction ranged from "just fine" to "great." The body mics never once snapped, crackled, or popped. The last production I saw featured two great performers, but it was a May/December romance - this time around, if the two performers are not the same age, they are certainly much closer and therefore more believable. It also made their chemistry better; they seemed to be in the same show.

Individually, Agnes Harty was wonderful and Jonathan MacQueen was good. MacQueen, continuing his annual tradition of starring in a two-person musical about a relationship, tended to be stiff. I don't know if that was a character choice (because admittedly, Michael can be a real tight-ass) or a limitation of his as an actor. [Think Paul Bratter in Barefoot in the Park - a role which I think Mr. MacQueen would nail.] He also sang through his nose a lot. In the future I'd love to hear him go town to his chest more and channel those great throaty baritones of yore. On the plus side, his best moments were when he was waiting for his first child to be born, the impressive umbrella dance he does, and his old man at the end. Thumbs up to the hair department. His Act 2 moustache was not at all distracting or unintentionally funny. A slight thumb down to the costume department for his Act 2 pot belly being too obviously fake, and conspicuous during an onstage costume change.

I always enjoy seeing Agnes Harty. She conveys so much with her face, and says more than the lyrics or the dialogue on the page hints at. She even made the "oh no, not another song" songs more bearable.

The choreography was my favorite thing about the show. Robert Egizio gives us the crisp, interesting, and entertaining numbers I've come to expect from him. Once again, he hits all the right notes.

So to sum up, not my favorite, but nice job all around (especially to Mr. Egizio), and kudos to Georgia Ensemble for doing the best they could with it. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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