The Prescient, the Prehistoric, and the Pathetic

Christiane Noll in Richard Maltby, Jr., and David Shire’s “Closer than Ever.” | CAROL ROSEGG

Closer Than Ever” is a musical for grown-ups. Richard Maltby, Jr., and David Shire’s song cycle about the challenges we get dealt by life was first presented more than 20 years ago, and while some of the 1980s references are a little dated, the underlying emotions are not. I loved it in its original production, and, as with many shows seen two decades later, I returned to the show a different person and so was affected by it in new ways. No matter what age we are, though, we still struggle with where we’re going, if we’ll get there, and what we’ve missed.

Under Maltby’s direction, the four singers — Jenn Colella, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll, and Sal Viviano — inhabit the songs, imbuing them with humanity and honesty. Each is highly accomplished, and whether it’s Colella’s ease with comedy, Noll’s heart-rending performance of “Patterns,” Dvorsky’s examination of a middle-aged man making peace with his aging father, or Viviano’s struggle with what might have been, they offer moments and stories that are touching and real. Under Andrew Gerle’s musical direction, every song is something to delight in.

Rumors are that this show is going to move from the York to a larger house. One can hope. This is a special show that shouldn’t be missed by anyone with a heart and a modicum of self-awareness.

I hadn’t realized just how much I’d been pining for a musical about re-animated dinosaurs running amok and destroying virtually everything in their wake. But, it bears remembering that we must always be careful what we wish for. “Triassic Parq,” now at the Soho Playhouse, was one of the standout hits of last year’s Fringe Festival. It’s also is an antic musical mess full of incoherence and silliness about frog DNA, gender transformation, and, oddly, love. At the same time, it manages to entertain through the sheer force of its charisma and dynamism.

Brandon Espinoza and Alex Wyse in Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz, and Stephen Wargo’s “Triassic Parq.” | CAROL ROSEGG

Judging by the audience the night I went, this altered reality is best enjoyed in a state of altered consciousness; the whooping party atmosphere of the theater almost overwhelmed the show on stage. My bet, though, is that if you go for the party, you’ll have a good time.

The score is a collection of power ballads by Marshall Pailet, Bryce Norbitz, and Stephen Wargo, which, sorry to say, will probably not make it into the American Songbook but are nonetheless charming and energetic — as is the choreography by Kyle Mullins that accomplishes amazing feats on the diminutive stage.

The cast, too, is a force to be reckoned with. There are outstanding performances from Wade McCollum as the matriarchal dino watching her world start to crumble and by Alex Wyse and Lindsay Nicole Chambers, respectively, as the Velociraptor of Innocence and the Velociraptor of Science. I wonder if other people thought about the poet William Blake in the conflict between the two states of being.

This is the kind of show that gives you two very clear choices — go with it or get out of the way. I recommend the former. Just give in to the mania, silliness, and inherent sweetness of the show. You won’t necessarily remember much later, but you’ll have a very good time.

“Three’s Company” was a terrible late ‘70s sitcom in which two girls and a guy lived together in an apartment in swinging Los Angeles. They escaped the prying eyes and harsh judgment of their busybody landlord by pretending the guy was gay. Eight years after Stonewall, being hateful toward LGBT people was still knee-slapping humor. After all, Jack Tripper wasn’t really gay.

So imagine the shock and horror to see “3C,” David Adjmi’s abysmal little play that borrows the situation and the late ‘70s date, but makes the guy really gay — and struggling with his identity. Now that’s funny, right? Cruelty and cynicism motivate every gag, demeaning the struggle young gay men have with their identity. The play is 90 minutes of torment, and the only defensible response is outrage. It seriously calls into question the artistic discernment, if not the moral foundation, of Piece by Piece Productions, Rising Phoenix Repertory, and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, the three companies that shared producing credit and chose Gay Pride Month to unleash this hate-fest on the world.

I have struggled to understand this piece and the decision to produce it. Is it a meta-comedy, commenting on the insensitivity of the original material in light of contemporary sensibilities? If so, Adjmi gives no indication of any sympathy for the character Brad’s struggle with his sexuality. Nor is there any ironic wink at play.

Brad is taunted by his “friend” Terry, a guy in the apartment house he is in love with. Are we supposed to be amused by Mr. Wicker, the sexually frustrated, older neighbor whose only response to the three confused young apartment mates downstairs is to play sexual power games, assaulting one of the females and hostilely treating Brad? This play cannot be justified as anything other than displaced anger from an immature playwright who thinks he’s funny. But then, bullies often think they’re just being funny.

It helps nothing that the unfocused direction by Jackson Gay can’t find the rhythms of farce or slapstick or that the painfully mediocre cast can’t play the supposed hilarity. Perhaps that’s to their credit, the only positive thing that can be said about this cynical disaster — except, of course, that it has closed.

CLOSER THAN EVER | York Theatre Company | 619 Lexington Ave. at E. 53rd St. | Mon., Tue. at 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sat at 2:30 p.m. | $67.50 | yorktheatre.org or 212-935-5820

TRIASSIC PARQ: THE MUSICAL | Soho Playhouse | 15 Vandam St. at Sixth Ave. | Mon.-Tue., Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. at 4 p.m. | $39.50-$59.50 | ovationtix.com or 212-352-3101

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