Zeitgeist's "Steve": Showtune Queue

Mikey DiLoreto, Alex Jacobs, Jenny Reagan, Victor Shopov, Adam Boisselle & Mike Nilsson in "Steve"
 (photo: David J. Miller)

Steve, by playwright Mark Gerrard, the current production by Zeitgeist Theatre, is first and foremost a play for all musical comedy queens with its myriad list of showtune references, but should appeal to any even broader spectrum of theatergoers. Stephen (Alex Jacobs), a somewhat inhibited businessman and Steve (Victor Shopov), failed chorus boy and stay-at-home dad raising their son, have been live-in partners for sixteen years. Their small circle of friends includes lesbian Carrie (Jenny Reagan), recently broken up with her longtime girlfriend (and terminally ill). There's also a hunky personal trainer named Steve (!), whom we mercifully don't see, and a flirty Argentinian waiter/dancer Esteban, which is Spanish for, um, Steve (Adam Boisselle). Another Steve (this one named Sondheim) in one version of his musical Company had a line about “multitudes of Amys”; this show obviously has a multitude of Steves. Oh, and there are guys not named Steve, Brian (Mike Nilsson) and Matt (Mikey DeLoreto). Issues that arise in these relationships include narcissism, sexting, monogamy, and middle aged gay New Yorkers and how they interact.

Victor Shopov & Jenny Reagan in "Steve"
(photo: David J. Miller)

What they've come together to celebrate is the 42nd birthday of Steve, to the tune of a barrage of showtune references, at least a couple of dozen just in this first scene. Most of them are fairly current shows, though Call Me Madam and Oklahoma! get brief mention. Some are quick and easy to miss (a cat named Elphebah, for example, or a line like “you're not a kid anymore, you'll never be a kid anymore” from Company. One of the more enjoyable ways to approach this encyclopedia of references is to try to catch which shows are included while still trying to follow the really thin plot. For the record, these would include Mame, Merrily We Roll Along, Man of La Mancha, West Side Story, Into the Woods, Bye Bye Birdie, A Little Night Music, Jesus Christ Superstar, My Fair Lady, Sunday in the Park with George, South Pacific, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, DreamgirIs, and I Can Get It For You Wholesale. And, yes, they're all in that first scene.

Alex Jacobs, Jenny Reagan & Mike Nilsson in "Steve"
(photo: David J. Miller) 

Once the play gets a bit less referential, there emerge some truths not to be revealed here, but suffice it to say that, thanks to David Miller's terrific direction and the acting of the ensemble, especially Zeitgeist repeaters Shopov and DiLoreto, there is much to appreciate in the play itself. One problem is that,in addition to the confusion about which Steve is which in any given line, and the roles of five other unseen characters, Gerrard also tinkers here and there with time (clumsy flashbacks) and place (suddenly we're at Fire Island?). But there are enough moving moments (as when Reagan protests about her ex, “we speak every day...almost”) as playwright Gerrard pursues the serious side of the zeitgeist. At one point Reagan queries if their talk might be “just noise”, a provocative question for a playwright to pose.
Zeitgeist may be off-off-Tremont, but it should be on every Boston theatergoer's map. It's never boring and is often more insightful than the product of a lot of other larger local companies. In any case, for members of this little company that could, it's obviously a labor of love, and it shows. The Direction, Scenic Design and Production Photos are by David Miller, who rumor hath it also makes the popcorn (untrue), with Lighting Design by Michael Clark Wonson, Sound Design by Jay Mobley and Costume Design by Elizabeth Cole Sheehan. One caveat: if you're going to put on a show with choir style seating, an overstuffed wingback chair on stage makes for partially obstructed views for some audience members.
Steve (all of them) is at the Boston Center for the Arts through March 24th. It's fun and a lot more engaging than a mere list of other theater pieces makes it sound. You should see it even if your name isn't Steve.

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