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Please Listen: A Musical Chaos Baldacchino Gypsy Tent at Fort Fringe

Remaining Performances: July 24th 10pm July 26th 3:15pm

What they say: Arlo and Donovan kidnap a big record executive to force him to produce their band’s new concept album ‘Overwhelming Stimulus.’ Watch the album unfold on stage and experience your first robot ball and more musical chaos.

Matt’s take: Back in 1987, director Elaine May set out to chronicle the hapless adventures of  two songwriting  man-children who, unbeknownst to themselves, write laughably lousy jingles. The absurdity of their songs was a high point in what has since been denounced as one of the biggest cinematic disasters in history. The overgrown adolescents  in question  were played by Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman. The film was Ishtar and, for the record, the first 30 minutes are kind of funny.

Since then, the oblivious songwriting duo has taken many forms but it’s always the same story. Two hopelessly delusional but tenacious dreamers fight for the fame and glory they believe is rightfully theirs. The audience knows better. It’s funny until it’s not.

The inherent ridiculousness of this mostly male-perpetuated rock-star fantasy is easily milked for quick laughs—-its fantasy having arrested the development of a large cross-section of the population for over 50 years. But sustaining this kind of humor for over an hour is a Herculean feat—-one which Open Drawer Theatre Company’s Please Listen: A Musical Chaos fails to bring off.

Please Listen follows the adventures of its two hapless “jammy” wearing leads Aaron Bliden and Mark Halpern who front Little Justice, an imaginary garage band with grandiose dreams of writing a rock opera about the perilous love between man and robot. In order to make their dream come true, they’ve decided to kidnap a record executive and force him to listen to their magnum opus. Cue the funny hats and silly falsetto!

Never mind that most musicians these days have more power than the brass at the record labels (a rap about winning a Grammy is painfully anachronistic—-would anyone actually be happy to win one of those?). With Please Listen’s 80 minute running time,  it extends itself with lengthy stretches of intentionally B-grade play material which would be amusing if the audience didn’t have to sit there watching it.  In its efforts to “play the whole album,” the third act feels intolerably drawn out with filler about the satirical stock characters’ robo love story. Watching Guffman ham it up in the comfort of your couch can be fun, but sitting in a hot tent? It gets a little exhausting.

It’s clear that Bliden and Halpern have immense talent, and the rest of the cast gamely injects an incredible sense of professionalism into roles that only requires them to wink and nod. But as with Ishtar’s Rogers and Clarke, Please Listen’s strengths are bogged down by needless convention and predictable quirk.

See it if: You have a soft spot for boys playing guitars singing non-sequiturs

Skip it if: The second season of Flight of The Conchords left you sore