Theater Review - Venice (NY)

Sibling Rivalry!   A new musical entitled “Venice,” commissioned by Center Theater Group in LA, was originally co-produced by Center Theater Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre, Michael Ritchie, Artistic Director and Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Eric Rosen, Director; it is playing through June 23 at the Public Lab. The Lab is part of the Public Theater in NY.  This just shows you how much support a new work needs and I have not even mentioned several other trusts and foundations that have contributed to this one production.


The Music by Matt Sax is hip hop/rap style, which is not my favorite, but here seems to enhance the conversation and the action, which is ever-moving, spurred on by Choreographer Chase Brock. Mr. Sax is also the energetic MC, a kind of Che Guevera, a la Evita, delivering the story. The Book tinged with Shakespearean overtones is by Eric Rosen, who directs, as well; fast-paced Lyrics are by Matt Sax and Eric Rosen. 


If you were expecting to see the beautiful city of Venice, it is not here. The four-level set by Beowulf Boritt is industrial with smoky lighting by Jason Lyons. Venice is also the name of a young man who wants to save his city and civilization which has been destroyed some twenty years before.  He is played by Haaz Sleiman with such clarity that our sympathies always lie with him. Venice's father and mother and Willow's father were killed and the two as youths were separated. They have exchanged letters and are in love. Willow, the lovely Jennifer Damiano, returns to help him restore peace and marry, accompanied by her loyal friend, Michael Victor, the tall, rather stiff Claybourne Elder. Venice's mother, Anna, an effective Uzo Aduba, communicates through visits from heaven or the beyond. 


Good Venice's half brother, Markos, an intense Leslie Odom, Jr., is no good, just evil, Iago type, and plots against both Venice and Theo Westbrook-- a focused Jonathan-David. Westbrook's father created the original war that killed Willow's family; but Theo is in love with Willow and is intent on killing Venice. In a silly way, Marcos brings in a sexy siren, Hailey Daisy (Angela Polk), to seduce Michael, and tries to manipulate his wife, Emilia, played by Victoria Platt, the very best in show. When she will not lie for him, his machinations end in death. 


“Venice,” young and passionate, is backed by a resolute beat that is impressive.  It will play through June 23.

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