TIME AFTER TIME: THE CHET BAKER PROJECT by James O'Reilly, directed by Jim Millan, with Danny DePoe, Philippa Domville, Martin Julien and O'Reilly. Presented by Crow's Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille in the Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson). Runs to April 22, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm (some Sunday 7 pm), matinees Sunday 2:30 pm (some Saturday 4 pm). $19-$38, Sunday matinee pwyc. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Like an obsessive refrain we
can't forget or fully explain, Time After Time: The Chet Baker Project is a seductive flirt. James O'Reilly's clever, probing script explores jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, both the man and his music, through the eyes of Ted, a writer trying to find the link between Baker's beautiful melodies and often ugly life. The fact that the Baker enigma can't be resolved -- any more than music's power can be rationally dissected -- is part of the play's strength.
O'Reilly loves wordplay and philosophical musings, and his work is full of musical riffs and counterpoint. He weaves live jazz into this kaleidoscopic bio, and adds another level of meaning when Ted tries to understand his own shaky romance by looking at Baker's relationship with women.
Focusing on the link between text and melody -- with the help of musical director Logan Medland and his combo -- director Jim Millan treats the piece as a slow, hazy, atmospheric ballad about self-knowledge and love.
O'Reilly plays Ted with a sense of troubled wonder, while Martin Julien energizes the various men surrounding Baker. The most memorable figure onstage, Philippa Domville, creates all the women in the piece, some blowsily sensual and some tightly contained.
Which leaves Baker himself, who must supply the production's essence. Musician Danny DePoe has the ethereal attractiveness of the early Baker, but his forte is trumpet-playing -- an actor he's not. And I hope he was just having an off night vocally. Baker must have more magic than DePoe offers. JK