By THE ENTHUSIAST
Don’t tell Mrs. Enthusiast, but The Enthusiast has a total crush on Laura Schein (Smiling Face with Smiling Eyes, a.k.a. "Smize"), the living embodiment of a Billy Squier lyric from Emotions In Motion: "You never let down, say you do it for fun, you never miss a play, though you make quite a few, you give it all away – everybody wants you." Not only is she crazy-cute with a soaring voice, she also co-wrote the darn thing. Even in a city as packed to the gills with talent as NYC, it’s rare to see someone write their own book and lyrics and then star in their own show – well, except for in derelict warehouses all across Bushwick every night of the week, natch.
Don’t tell Mrs. Enthusiast, but The Enthusiast has a total crush on Lucas Steele ("Skull"), the living embodiment of a Bauhaus lyric from 4AD: "What do you want of me? What do you long from me? A thin pixie, pale and forlorn? A count, white and drawn?" Yes. That’s EXACTLY what we want of you, Lucas Steele. And, oh, do you deliver; baby and how. The fact that most of Skull’s songs sound like amped-up variations on the histrionic upper-register bits of "Gethsemane" from Jesus Christ Superstar as recorded by Ian Gillan only makes his gaunt and glowering moping all the more magisterial.
As much as The Enthusiast would like to keep this trope going, he can’t declare a crush on Princess (Lesli Margherita) because she would put him in a headlock and frog-march him to the nearest dungeon if he so much as dared to wink her way. Princess incarnates every titanically self-absorbed "influencer" who ever lived for the likes. Her fierce-as-f*ck showstopper, "Princess Is A Bitch," is the show’s standout number, so much so that The Enthusiast can understand the impulse to show up just in time to catch that song and then leave once it's over, a la all those dandy French aristocrats in the 19th century who would arrive at the opera just in time to watch their inamoratas dance the ballet at the end of the second act and then flounce off before the curtain rises for the third. To be clear, management may not understand, but The Enthusiast does.
The Duke Having flattered the Princess, The Enthusiast must now must praise The Duke, a serious contender for Awesomest Off-Broadway Theater Ever. Part of the much-lauded New 42 Studio Building (Platt Byard Dovell White, architects), the 199-seat Duke is one of the only theaters on, off, or off-off Broadway to feature steeply staggered stadium-style seating. The result? Abraham Lincoln could sit in front of you tricked out in his stovepipe-iest top hat and it wouldn't occlude your view. The Duke, in short, is the king of black-box theaters.
Ambition Like many people in comedy, the creators of Emojiland clearly hunger to be more than just funny. People who write plays and musicals that make us laugh, you see, are looked down on at cocktail parties by people who believe that Plays That Engage With Important Issues and Plays That Make You Feel Sad, Troubled Or Angry are made by people far more talented than those who write Plays That Make You Laugh. This isn't even remotely true, but the resulting insecurity has led no small number of comedic book and lyric writers to show us that they have chops when it comes to Issues and Emotions, too. That ambition is here embodied by the song "1,000 Words." It's a terrific song -- or would be if it were a late addition to, say, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus' Chess. But it doesn’t make a lick of sense in Emojiland, where Woman Police Officer (Felicia Boswel) sings it after – well, I don’t want to reveal too much, so let’s just say that something bad happens to Woman Construction Worker (Natalie Weiss). Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, as should that of a Woman Police Officer. In the words of the opening song, "Peace, thumbs up, pound, O.K., high five." Nuff said.
The Enthusiast (email@example.com) is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. But what he declines to praise can speak volumes.