Review by Ashley Hutchinson
The beginning of Ken Kruper’s Roman Fever seemed very reminiscent of Adam Guettal’s Light in the Piazza, however only in a nostalgic way. The premises of both stories are really quite different, yet driven from the same place of misguided motherly affection and young love. Regardless of the similarities of theme, Kruper’s book and lyrics did not prove stale: the plot follows two older women revisiting Rome with their two 20-something daughters, and as the two daughters explore, the mothers, old friends for some time, begin to realize that the events that had occurred in Rome some 20 years earlier had not quite been what they had remembered. Culminating with a final number with the tagline “That’s not how I remembered it,” I got the hidden agendas and the hidden desires of each of the characters. In the end, the acting was just fine, and the singing was even better; the thing that seemed to inhibit this production was the black box setting. Had a little more thought been put in to the staging and design of the piece, this musical could have taken wild leaps from MITF to NYMF to something bigger.
When the two older ladies first appeared onstage, their costumes were ambiguous as to if this was the 1940s, 50s, or even 60s, because once the two daughters, Jenny and Barbara, arrived they seemed very much from the present. This gap in generations could very well have been on purpose, as the feel of the piece seemed like a timeless Woody Allen film, just without the offbeat humor. The music was ultimately what made the piece, if perhaps a little confusing at times with the plot: the musical was a very short 30 minutes, which would have worked had the plot elements not had to cover so much ground in such a short amount of time.
At the end, I wondered if perhaps the musical would later be expanded, given the piece seemed not to embrace it’s workshop-y elements; mainly, the underdeveloped space. Some of the blocking choices proved to have rather interesting beginnings, such as when the daughters were making their way around Rome and the two older women sat stagnant at a café table in the middle of the space, seeming to reveal the older women, stuck in the past and the two daughters moving throughout the present. However, the rules of this convention could have been made clearer.
All in all, it was a very romantic piece, and seemed to harken back to the feel of many great pieces out there. With a little bit more development, Roman Fever has the ability to expand into it’s own and I am very excited to see if it adds its own distinct comment to the beautiful worlds of Guettal and Allen.