Deep down, don’t we all want to be rock stars? Ditch the 9-to-5 and bask in the glory of screaming fans, international acclaim and Rolling Stone covers? Well, too bad it isn’t so easy, as Cuchipinoy Productions learns in their listless and oftentimes rambling production of Jonathan Calindas’ play, The Magnificent Mr. Vincent.
You don’t have to be fresh out of college to understand the basic dilemma of this show. I bet you can think of at least five movies that concentrated on some guys, “their band,” and their ultimate inability to accept adulthood. But bear with me here: three New Jersey buddies find local fame with their collegiate hit “When We Rule the World” and envision a career as the next Counting Crows. One by one they get blindsided by the real world, leaving lead singer/songwriter Sam all alone and unable to write his one final great song. If this were the only direction this show took, there’s a solid chance it could come off as a profound exploration of the disappointments and challenges faced by growing up. Instead, there are so many sprawling tangents and insignificant characters that it’s nearly impossible to distinguish where everyone ended up, let alone care why.
This is not for lack of tryingr. For all that happens in the span of four or five years, Sam seems to consistently end up exactly back where he started, alone and unable to release the music burning inside him. We have to constantly endure mundane updates on his life that sound suspiciously similar to those of the year before, and even when life-changing events happen to his former bandmates, the effect is less than life-changing for the audience. The main device chosen for relaying all of this is having Sam monologue directly with the audience for most of the show while three actors don various disguises and flit briskly in and out of his story. Dru Lockwood carries the heavy weight of Sam on his capable shoulders, establishing an easy-going rapport with the audience early on and giving us a young man that encompasses the insecurities in all of us. This unconsciously impairs the overall impression of the show, for while Lockwood delivers his tale with approachable, aw-shucks charm, at over two and a half hours, this ultimately feels like a coffee date with a long-lost pal that’s gone way past its interest mark for “what have you been up to since college?”.
Since Dru Lockwood assumes such a natural and believable disposition, apparently that prompted the three remaining actors to beef up their various bit parts with shallow and over-the-top caricatures. Bill Chamberlain is the most tolerable of the bunch, for his numerous portrayals are at least distinguishable from one another, if not a tad overblown. Anthony Go is gratifying as best buddy Mike, but it would be pretty near impossible to separate his other incarnations is not for various different colored shirts (and please, slow down the speech!). As much as Janet Casamento tries to imbue each of her females with distinct personalities, the only one I can clearly remember is the be-wigged Long Island date, who it was apparently agreed upon by the others we should never speak of again — whatever happened to her in the story?
Perhaps the main reason why Mr. Vincent’s incoherent plot direction is so foggy in my mind is the excessively loud and annoyingly distracting scene changes. For as limited a set as this show has, more drama surrounds the moving of chairs than the trials and tribulations of Sam. Whenever I found myself drifting from the action onstage, there was a constant stream of whispering behind the curtains to try and interpret. To director Mario Corrales and stage manager Tami Gebhardt I say: please let your crew know that the only discussions we should be concentrating are those belonging to the actors.
The Magnificent Mr. Vincent is in no way a debacle; it definitely captures the aimlessness that categorizes the twentysomething’s path into adulthood. It’s always better to show than to tell, and this show does more than its fair share of telling. Sam is quick to discover that he doesn’t have the answers, but for the sake of this show, an explanation here and there sure would make things a lot more enjoyable.