At first glance, the story of middle-aged Marvin-- who once seduced his high-school teacher and now seeks to leave his wife and son for his new male lover--seems more like "Sally Jessie Raphael" material than the stuff musicals are made of. Fortunately, under the brilliant directing of Peter Wilson '99 and led by a dynamic cast, the HRDC production of In Trousers transforms Marvin's shocker of a story into a laugh-provoking, even heartwarming musical extravaganza.
In Trousers follows the story of Marvin (Ryan Shrime '00), who is currently torn between the passion he feels for his gay lover and the memories of the women, past and present, in his life. The audience is treated to intricate flashbacks of Marvin's life, starring his devoted, heartbroken wife (Jessica Jackson '99); his semi-innocent, heartbroken high-school sweet-heart (Margaret J. Barker '98); and his intriguing, heartbroken teacher Miss Goldberg (Laurie Sheflin '97-'98).
The players themselves, while not perfect, are superb considering the energy and skills the production calls for. They fall out of balance with the piano music rather often, but usually catch themselves and get back on beat fairly quickly. Although Shrime's somewhat-weak voice nearly fails him in some of the lower-pitched numbers, he more than makes up for his vocal short-comings in the other songs, particularly during the Don Juan seduction of Miss Goldberg.
Jackson, whose breathtaking voice can bring the audience to tears, is possibly the most versatile performer in the cast. She switches gears from Marvin's innocent and hesitant fiancee to his shattered yet infuriated wife with ease, grace and flawless dancing. Barker has a little more difficulty keeping up with the dance numbers, but her vocal performance is solid and her emoting keeps the audience involved. Sheflin, with a voice both powerful and haunting, also performs wonderfully behind somewhat-bizarre sunglasses.
The production's choreography, also directed by Wilson, is the most fantastic portion of the entire production. With only four players, some of the more upbeat songs become hysterical feasts of scandalous lyrics and perfectly-timed traditional (and not-so-traditional) Broadway dancing. Flanked by melancholy pieces about lost love, the spicier songs add amazing comic relief: the saucy maids and an aggressive adolescent Marvin who sing about making breakfast, the horny high-school girls tempting Marvin at the bus stop and the fabulously raucous number dedicated to Marvin's first gay sexual experience all leave the audience roaring with laughter. Few musicals could line up an estranged wife trying to deal with her heartache followed by a man singing the praises of oral sex and still be endearing the entire time.
Though the production does not boast a lavish set or hordes of props, the charismatic cast breathes life and significance into everything that appears on stage. For example, the simple black dresses that Jackson, Barker and Sheflin don for the majority of the play both distinguish them from one another (Jackson's is elegant, Barker's sultry and Shetlin's matronly) and unify them (they are all women who have loved and been hurt by the confused Marvin). In addition, the lighting crew helps illuminate (no pun intended) the myriad of moods the production calls for.
While the Loeb Ex's potentially-claustrophobic ambiance may be a bit intimidating, the cast and crew of In Trousers do a marvelous job of making everyone feel right at home in their dysfunctional little world. (Sit in the front rows if you don't mind the performers sitting in your lap.) Leave your inhibitions in your room and go and enjoy the kinky, kooky tale of woe that is In Trousers before it's just a memory.
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