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Reviews

Imperfect Chemistry

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Reviewed by David A. Rosenberg

Presented by Back to Back Productions at the Minetta Lane Theatre,18 Minetta Lane, NYC. Opened Aug. 24 for an open run.

In the dreadful "Imperfect Chemistry"—story and music by Albert Tapper, book and lyrics by James Racheff—the most interesting character is a super-computer. An enormous, turntable-spinning machine that looks designed by Louise Nevelson and cheerfully fills most of the Minetta Lane Theatre's stage, it gurgles and sputters, but has the good sense not to talk or sing (although some of the show's tunes are cheerful).

Spoofing mad scientist movies, satirizing America's obsession with consumerism, beauty, and quack cures, and throwing in references to God, the Devil, and the Garden of Eden, the musical is both convoluted and annoying. Hired by the golf-crazy Dr. Goodman to use his lab but not his super-computer, two young geneticists are also badgered by Dr. Bubinski, a greedy, demented Russian. Eventually, the scientists—of course they fall in love—find a cure for male pattern baldness they call Loxagane. Unfortu-nately, it not only grows hair, but causes users to revert to Neanderthal status.

Under the rambunctious direction and choreography of John Ruocco, the hapless cast struggles with the material. The talented Brooks Ashmanskas tiresomely overdoes his overly familiar shtick. Amanda Watkins and Ken Barnett are appealing as the lovers, though their voices often slip below the radar. John Jellison is both Goodman and Bubinski, clobbering both characterizations. The ensemble—Joel Carlton, Michael Greenwood, Deirdre Lovejoy, and Sara Schmidt—tries not to look too embarrassed, even when wrapped in American flag towels.

There is some wit in Rob Odorisio's scenery and day-glo proscenium, Curtis Hay's outlandish costumes, and Robert Kaplowitz's percolating sounds. John-Paul Szczepanski's lighting is appropriately garish, as befits this misstep of a show for which August Eriksmoen provides musical direction, vocal arrangements, and orchestrations.

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