The Midtown International Theatre Festival
For a girl from Duluth named Katie, New York City looks like the Capital of the World: professionally (she’s an aspiring actor and stand-up coming) and romantically (four million men must mean there’s one for her). But soon after she arrives, she discovers that big-city dating is a big pain for little gain. The central figure of the new musical Ten Reasons I Won’t Go Home With You, Katie is played by bookwriter Kelly Nichols as the eternal ray of sunshine that Y-chromosome clouds just love to smother — and a young(ish) woman who spends much of her initial time in the city learning that maybe she’s better off alone.
What, you say, that’s not exactly musical-comedy material? Good catch. If there weren’t reason for Katie and her best friend Melissa (Liza Poor) to hope their princes were around the next corner, there’d be nothing to sing or crack jokes about. So Katie runs through the appropriate cycle of increasingly outlandish guys: One speaks through a hand puppet, one lies (heavily) about his age, one is a crass womanizer, one is a homeless man in the subway, another is gay, and so on. And after each, we learn one of the “reasons” of the title, which provides a handy way to track how long is left until Katie finds her perfect man. After all, that’s how it has to go, right?
This is not a show bursting with surprises, so that makes most of Katie’s in-between dates (cycled through by actors Ryan Stadler, Benjamin Holmes, Marvin Riggin, Jr., Mark Dunn, and Edward Campbell) filler rather than fun. The score, cobbled together from eight composers and lyricists, is pleasant-enough Off-Broadway pop — a little Jason Robert Brown, a little Scott Frankel and Michael Korie, a lot of indistinct pretty melodies — but forgettable as far as the men are concerned. The clear-eyed optimism Nichols brings to Katie makes her believable as a woman trying to find both her independence and her soul mate, and her solos (Alan Bukowiecki and Blake Hackler’s “Musical Theatre God,” the searching “Reasons” by Bobby Cronin and Brett Teresa) make us want her to succeed as much as she does, but much of what surrounds her makes it hard to care.
Director Billy Mitchell has staged the show with an aggressive eye toward comedy, but the action only comes alive when Nichols and Poor share the stage to commiserate about their various woes and outlooks. Their scenes crackle with the electricity of I-know-what-you’re-going-through feminine bonding, and their songs (Jason Purdy’s “Worse Things” and Cronin’s “You Deserve Better”) adroitly capture their frustration with the brackish dating pool. The unintended message of these scenes, which anchor the show, are that these two straight women can’t find in men the camaraderie they can so easily unlock in each other. It’s a nice idea, but not really what Ten Reasons I Won’t Go Home With You is about — its real message about continuing to kiss frogs until you find your prince might come through better if so many of the candidates weren’t so riddled with warts.
Ten Reasons I Won’t Go Home With You