Wednesday, 5 November 2014

FOUND at the Atlantic Theater Company

          The charming, tuneful but seriously flawed musical FOUND is based on Davy Rothbart's magazine, which publishes real messages that have been found in the trash, on car windshields, even on bills and receipts. Some of the messages are funny, others cries for help. When the show sticks to the messages it is delightful, but it gets bogged down in a formulaic romcom book that has been grafted on to give the show some continuity. The show would have been much better as a revue. The funniest moments are actually revue sketches, such as the fifth grade version of "Johnny Tremaine" that is sabotaged by unruly students.
           The central character is "Davy", a fictional version of FOUND Magazine's founder. In this version, the day Davy loses his job, he finds a strange note on his windshield (the writer put the note on the wrong Toyota). The note begins an obsession for collecting these sorts of messages. He shares this with his two best friends, a gay bear and Christina, who secretly loves him. The three of the start the magazine which becomes a runaway success. Enter the lovely posh girl eager for Hollywood fame and fortune. She steals Davy's heart and convinces him to go to Hollywood with her to sell the idea to television. You see where this is going, right? Fortunately this overly familiar story is laced with lots of very funny Found material, presented as a kind of Brechtian commentary on the action.
            Hunter Bell's score is tuneful, if not memorable. It's a challenge to write songs to prose (most of the songs are sung Found messages). Director Lee Overtree and choreographer Monica Bill Barnes have staged the show effectively on a simple set, though I think a stronger director would have pushed for major changes that could have made this an excellent ninety minute show (it clocks in at close to 2 1/2 hours). The cast is a mixed bag. Nick Blaemire, who plays Davy, is a winning performer. I found the two leading ladies blah. Christina Anthony, who plays the lovelorn Christina, was often inaudible and listless. Kate, the ambitious would be producer, is a one-note character, so it's not surprising that Betsy Morgan was a one note performer. The supporting ensemble was comprised of idiosyncratic individuals who kept the show buoyant.  
FOUND. Atlantic Theater Company. November 4, 2014.            

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