Citilites Theatre presents a late night show, making a sort of double bill for theatre patrons after they take in The Crumple Zone, with the short musical, Songs from an Unmade Bed. Fortunately, it's well worth staying over for (although I took in a Sunday matinee performance), featuring a terrific performance from Justin Ivan Brown. It's a collection of eighteen songs by various composers, but all featuring the pithy and amusing lyrics of Mark Campbell. The brevity of the show, which runs about an hour, is perfectly suited to the material, and easily outshines the production that plays before it.
Mark Campbell presents us with an unnamed character who's ruminating on love and lovers past and present. The songs cover a broad range stylistically and feature the contributions of a number of composers including: Jenn Giering, Joseph Thalken, Gihieh Lee, Lance Horne, Chris Miller, Jake Hegge, Duncan Sheik, Steven Lutvak, Peter Golub, Kim D. Sherman, Mark Bennett, Greg Pliska, Brendan Milburn, Debra Barsha, Jeffrey Stock, Stephen Hoffman, Steve Marzullo and Peter Foley. Some of the tunes are wistful reminiscing, some are pointed commentaries, and some are just downright fun, but all feature interesting melodies full of dissonance and longing that accurately fit the moods they conjure up.
Justin Ivan Brown does a fantastic job realizing all this material, inhabiting each individual presented with considerable aplomb. There are a number of standout songs including: "He Never Did That Before" (about a lover who's sudden ingenuity in the bedroom sparks concern over where the "trick" came from), "He Plays the Cello" (about a musician who's skill on the aforementioned instrument is something less than lacking), "Exit Right" (concerning the need to avoid dating an actor), and "Perfect, Finite" (a genuinely touching song). But, they're all good in their own way, and they fit together to form a complete picture of what it's like to be in love, and what's it like to lose that love, or watch it fade over time.
In addition to Brown intoxicating vocals, Nick Moramarco tickles the ivories in expert fashion, while Cory Webb adds cello, and Anthony Wininger plays percussion. No microphone is utilized, but no lyrics are lost either, because the band finds a comfortable level that allows Brown's voice to soar above them.
Seth Ward Pyatt's direction and musical direction is smartly conceived and executed, making the most of GP Hunsaker's standing set for The Crumple Zone, with just a few key additions, including the unkempt bed of the title. Steven Miller's lighting is even more evocative and moody for this production than the former, and Cindy Duggan nicely choreographs Brown's brief moments of dance. Her work (and his) during "Exit Right" and "The Other Other" is especially well done.
Songs from an Unmade Bed is highly recommended, not only for Brown's performance, but also for these wonderful little songs that touch the heart and the funny bone in equal measure. The show continues through July 24, 2011 at the Gaslight Theatre.