Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Closing the Fringe with Mom - Part 10

Day 2

Buy Me A Mockingbird
Tod Petersen

Mom says, "It was really good up to a point, and then I found myself checking my watch about 45 minutes in."

One of the many great things about the Fringe is that works very much still in progress can test their wings.

The wings on this show are very strong. They just lack a little direction.

No one can argue that Tod Petersen isn't a charming performer. He can hold his own on stage with nothing more than a music stand. And the crowd loved him. In fact, a large part of the reason this show ran long is that people just couldn't stop laughing.

It was great to see Carole Petersen emerge again from Tod's repetoire. While he wrings much humor out of portraying his mother, he never mocks her. This is imitation born of love and it shows.

A still greater revelation was Tod's portrayal of his father. Mr. Petersen is a fun and fascinating character, and couldn't be more different from his colorful wife. Putting mother and father together on stage painted a very enjoyable portrait of a marriage. We see in the father the upbringing in musical theater that shaped the son who stands before us. It is in the characters of his parents that the greatest strength, and the best material, of Tod's show lies.

When the show veers into Tod's personal life, we get into more problematic territory. There is still humor, and memorable secondary characters - hot Mona, young TJ, among others.

But Tod doesn't bring to life those people who appear to be the major players in the second half of the production - his exes. We get details, but all filtered exclusively through Tod and how he reacted to them. The other men aren't allowed to live fully in the same way that Tod's parents - and minor characters like Mona and TJ - do. Consequently, the whole thing feels a little lopsided, as if we're only hearing one person's side of an argument. Tod's journey to self-respect and self-acceptance is compelling, but it could be much more so if we really understood and experienced the obstacles (in this case, people) he had to overcome to get there. While learning to love oneself is important, I'd hate to think it's the end of the journey.

All that said, the building blocks of another Tod Petersen entertainment are clearly in evidence. I look forward to seeing the next steps in its evolution.

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