Dallas — A provocative concept and intriguing characters often fall flat against a meandering plotline and mundane score in The Manufactured Myth of Eveline Flynn, a new musical with book by Michael Federico and lyrics and score by Ian Ferguson, currently running in its premiere production at Theatre Three directed by Kara-Lynn Vaeni with musical direction by Vonda K. Bowling.
The central and eponymous character lives in Chicago, where her daily routine as an office-worker at a charitable non-profit agency is constantly interrupted by delusional dreams in which she sees herself, by turn, as an intergalactic rock star, a Nobel laureate, a victim of horror-movie terror, a patricide, and in other manifestations. Meanwhile, in her waking hours, Eveline copes with an irritatingly cheerful best friend who is engaged to Eveline’s brother; the brother is meanwhile having an affair with Eveline’s sullenly promiscuous roommate. Eveline despises her father, tolerates a clueless mother, and, as an urban, semi-lapsed Catholic, occasionally bumps into a baseball-loving nun and a hip, platitude-spouting priest.
All of which produces plenty of material for a variety of musical adventures, ranging from imitation rock to a satirically sexy take-off on Motown. And that’s where execution comes up short of the possibilities and promise of the concept. Every successful musical needs at least one gut-wrenching anthem, and, while the songs in Eveline Flynn get the idea across, the score never breaks out of a made-to-order predictability.
Some issues inherent in the production don’t help, either. At Monday night’s performance, the small orchestra (positioned on a raised platform and ably led from the keyboard by Bowling) constantly overwhelmed the vocalists, rendering about 50 percent of lyrics unintelligible. While the singing was largely competent, there were a few too many out-of-tune notes than one wants to hear in a professional production.
In spite of musical weaknesses, the cast is dramatically impressive. Lauren LeBlanc delivered the title role with a winning combination of vulnerability and tough, urban cynicism. Her voice was uneven at times, with the upper range her best area. Taylor Nash brought the best voice of the show and plenty of energy to the role of the roommate Zoey, while Madison Calhoun bounded neatly through the role of the misguidedly optimistic friend Molly. Mark Mullino loomed forbiddingly and convincingly as Eveline’s father, played off against Angela Davis as the comically pathetic mother. Quinton Jones, Jr. provided the sexy love interest, while Aubrey Ferguson bounded through the double role of a supervisor at Eveline’s job and nun-on-the-street. Spencer Diggers was convincingly over-the-top as both a smugly sympathetic priest and a not-particularly-knowledgeable psychiatrist with a heavy German accent. Composer Ferguson filled in on short notice as Eveline’s brother Stephen and didn’t quite clue us in on the egotistical narcissism inherent in that role.
Sets and costumes by Jeffrey Schmidt and Korey Kent, respectively, successfully and frugally portrayed the shifting terrain of Eveline’s hallucinatory world and contemporary Chicago; director Vaeni created a constantly energetic flow from Eveline’s delusions to her reality. Danielle Georgiou created some impressively efficient choreography for a cast whose talents were heaviest on acting.
In spite of weaknesses in both the show and the production, Eveline Flynn, to its credit, communicates a profound and worthy theme. Eveline is not so much an aberration but is rather a typical American in a society in which we all escape into delusion as a survival strategy. For, in the end, and, in an unexpected way, it is delusion that allows Eveline to carry on in a confusing world.
» Read our interview with Michael Federico and Ian Ferguson here