People are strange. We are, we all are. Let’s admit this. We are full of oddities that make us unique; in fact, it is the oddities that make each of us a person. Most people are comparable to another person, very few are considered special in the grand scheme of things. That’s because people are ashamed of sharing those little weird parts of them that are essential to their own persona. The rise of globalization and the anonymity of the world wide web have opened new doors for people to find out that we are not alone. That the solitary existence they had accepted as their only course doesn’t have to be the only path. One of the biggest sites to allowed people to find each other is Craiglist, the popular free-for-all yellow pages site that we all have used for years to look for jobs, things to buy for cheap, and more importantly to this review, to write a letter to that person that may have shared a look with us and now we hope is reading the missed connections section. And it is this site and that particular section that inspire writers Veda Hille, Bill Richardson and Amiel Gladstone to create the musical romp “Missed Connections: A Craiglist Musical,” being performed at The New Ohio Theatre. And we are so lucky they did!
The first thing you notice, before the first note is even played, is the spectacular set design by Josh Iacovelli. A cluster of chairs stuck to a wall, with a very crowded stage–the set teases you constantly as you wait for it to start. It makes you wonder how they are going to use it, if the mess is going to work, if it’s going to distract, and if it is as amazing as it looks. It is, once the lights go down and the song “Bus Boyfriend” starts being performed, it becomes obvious how well put together this set is and how much it’s going to add to the experience. From there on, we are at the palms of the actors and their impressive skills.
Director Phillip George and Casting Director Jason Styres have assembled one of the most talented ensembles I’ve seen in awhile. Their energy is infectious, their love for the subject is apparent, and their abilities are constantly reminding us we are watching a special cast. Each one plays multiple instruments as they take us on a journey through the unusual nature of people’s desires and those that may share it. One moment in particular resonated with the audience, and it is the piece called “Cat Hats;” in here, an old woman talks about her cat and how she is giving away a box of cat hats that range from funny to formal. She does not want to sell it, it doesn’t feel right, but she wants to give it away. This story sets off the song, which basically has her singing about the cat she misses. In here we see the desperation of loss, and the eventual healing in a performance that get us to the verge of tears just to take that sadness away in one of the most ridiculous ways. And it was perfection!
And those are the stories we get here, the stories we all laugh about. The stories we don’t think exist. A man that would like you to lie in noodles feels normal, as he seems to really be into it. A guy that’s in love with a clown and can’t bring himself to say hello, but hopes he reads the ad he wrote on the website. A man that is in love with a woman dressed all in black, and wants to show her a good time. That last one was a favorite! The whole show is full of numbers that will make you laugh uncontrollably, but “Hi My Lady” is one of the most collectively fun pieces, and the good time the cast is having doing it adds to the experience. Through all these songs, we realized the theme lying underneath. We live in an isolating society, a society that likes to take away their peculiarities and keep their clichés, and because of it we constantly ask ourselves if someone actually have noticed us today. We do that even when we are social. Always wondering if that same person may have this one thing in common or if you still have to hide away your eccentricities. While the lack of an actual plot may have hurt the production a bit for some, the bravado of its stylistic choices and the feel good feeling it generates gives its audience a reason to smile. After all, we are celebrating the unconventional while hoping to also learn to accept it.
BeeBar LLC’s production of “Missed Connections: A Craigslist Musical” has some misses in its repertoire, but not enough to take anything away from the production. It boils down to a matter of taste, and not a matter of somebody doing a bad job. And in the end, you will have such a fun evening; you will be in love, rooting for the little musical about the people nobody wants to talk about. At least I did. I will recommend you make your way to The New Ohio Theatre before September 25th, and see it now before it moves to bigger things, because chances are that it will.
Out of four stars:
Twisted Talk: Have you ever posted a missed connections Craigslist ad? Have you seen this show yet? Discuss below!