This gay mortal coil
Sung-through 'Falsettos' delivers at Rhino
by Richard Dodds
It has been 17 years since I first, and last, saw Falsettos, during its Tony Award-winning Broadway run, and I can happily report that I enjoyed Theatre Rhino's current production even more. It's not because the cast is more talented or polished or experienced, because obviously it is not, but the strongly beating heart of the William Finn-James Lapine work can better reveal itself in intimate sincerity presented on the Rhino stage.
The musical that is now known as Falsettos is actually two-thirds of a trilogy that began in 1979 with In Trousers, continued in 1981 with March of the Falsettos, and concluded with 1990's Falsettoland. The three one-act musicals tracked the evolution of gay liberation through the story of one man and the people in his life.
In Trousers, which is not part of Falsettos, introduced us to the character of Marvin, a married man with a son, who struggles with his attraction to men. March of the Falsettos picks up after Marvin has left his wife for another man, while Falsettoland continues the story two years later as reconciliations between Marvin and his boyfriend, his son, and his ex-wife are cruelly unhinged, yet ultimately strengthened, when a mysterious gay plague yet without a name enters their lives.
Falsettos is a sung-through musical, which requires a different sort of attention from audiences than a traditional musical where spoken dialogue provides straightforward plot information and the songs come as diverting interludes. But heightened attention is rewarded in Finn's music, which pulls from uncountable sources, and especially his lyrics, which can be both joyfully clever and poignantly revealing at the same time.
Director Hector Correa has staged the production in a confident, no-fuss manner that puts the attention on the characters and what they have to say. The performers, almost all new to the Rhino stage, are in sync with the director and the material, negotiating the show's complex musicality and lyrics with skill and empathy under Mark Hanson's solid musical direction.
Christian Bohm has an everyman's countenance and a strong voice as Marvin, Leanne Borghesi brassily plays Marvin's conflicted ex-wife, Scott Gesford has the good looks and unexpected depths to play Marvin's younger lover, and David Kahawaii is a delight at Marvin's confused yet increasingly wise pre-teen son. Laurie Bushman and Amanda Dolan enjoyably play "the lesbians from next door," and Christopher M. Nelson is a fun presence as Marvin's nervous psychiatrist who becomes his ex-wife's new husband.
Falsettos is about the pleasures and perils of family, both biological and extended, and the grim reminder of mortality becomes a catalyst to bypass regrets and "live and die fortissimo." The message is delivered with steely humanity at Theatre Rhino.
Falsettos will run through Feb. 8 at Theatre Rhino. Tickets are $15-$40. Call 861-5079 or go to www.therhino.org.