Buddies in Bad Times starts its season on a high note with When We Were Singing, a smart, sophisticated musical that looks at the cluttered lives of a quartet of urban trendies.
Chronically fuelled by alcohol, they find their lives changed when a crucial relationship breaks up. Dorothy Dittrich's sung-through piece is full of clever lyrics, performed with clarity in David Oiye's brisk, sympathetic production. The music, tricky and catchy, frequently has a bluesy, jazzy feel, and the characters are lightly sketched -- we're given a few elements about each and have to fill in the rest.
That's a problem with the role of Les, the one man in the quartet, for his tale doesn't allow much fleshing out. But Marc Richard's warm, ingratiating performance firmly cements Les into the action with the simple, touching title song. The other problematic element is Jennifer Rayner as Abby, who finds herself floating into the bed of a good friend. Rayner has the energy for the role, but her voice is all middle range, with no top or bottom.
There's only pleasure in the work of Paula Wolfson, a megawatt talent who nails the showy, fun-loving Belinda with a martini toothpick, and Alison Woolridge's Jenny, the lesbian filmmaker whose insecurities and self-pity increase after a disastrous, friendship-changing night. JK
*WHEN WE WERE SINGING, by Dorothy Dittrich, directed by David Oiye, with Jennifer Rayner, Marc Richard, Paula Wolfson and Alison Woolridge. Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). Runs to October 15, Tuesday-Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday matinee 2:30 pm. $15-$18, Tuesday and Sunday pwyc. 975-8555. Rating: NNNN