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Everythings Turning Into Beautiful
by Rob Kendt

Carol Rosegg
A Beautiful pair:
Daphne Rubin-Vega & Malik Yoba
When Sam (Malik Yoba) shows up on the Chelsea doorstep of Brenda (Daphne Rubin-Vega) in the wee hours of a cheerless Christmas morning, he brings along a guitar. "I think it's a single," he says of the new song he wants to play for her. "But it needs a hook."

The same could be said of Everythings Turning Into Beautiful, Seth Zvi Rosenfeld's searching, would-be soulful, insistently average new play, in which a pair of struggling singer/songwriters break the business-only rules of their co-writing partnership for a messy stab at something more. The play strikes many authentically wrenching chords—the painful material and social tradeoffs of the artist's life, the cross—purposes of men and women in sex and in love, the music industry's infamous obsession with youth—but it mostly vamps on them rather than developing a theme. It comes off as a kind of late-night jam session of the heart, but with two players who are having an emotional off-night.

And when this evening-long roundelay of flirtation and negotiation hits a snag (or when Rosenfeld writes himself into a corner), one of them pulls out the six-string or pops in a CD to say it with a song. Indeed, this must be the most lo-fi musical ever. While the conspicuous lack of amplification is welcome in Theatre Row's intimate Acorn Theatre, it's hard to get much of a kick, let alone a point, from Jimmie James' wispy coffeehouse songs, particularly in the diffident performances offered by Rubin-Vega and Yoba. And while it's entirely credible that these two musicians would communicate this way, even or perhaps especially in moments of emotional extremity, not very much is communicated by James' lyrics, which run the gamut from laconic to opaque.

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Rubin-Vega, with her tiny but voluptuous frame and her swooping, vulpine mouth, almost holds the whole thing together, no small feat given that Brenda makes such sharp turns she practically makes us dizzy: She veers from guarded to coy, from hard-nosed to needy, in the blink of an eyelash. A moving, ragged second act monologue, in which Brenda claws ravenously at any hope for a quiet, normal life, is a minor tour de force in Rubin-Vega's hands; she brings this aria of regret right up to the edge of rubber-room
Carol Rosegg
Daphne Rubin-Vega & Malik Yoba
in Everythings Turning Into Beautiful
crazy without losing the thread of recognizable anger and despair.

Her co-star isn't in her league, unfortunately. Yoba has a silky, naturalistic appeal—a living definition of the phrase "comfortable in his own body." It's easy to see why the camera loves him, and it's also easy to see him as the kind of weary womanizer whose turn-on is the chase, not the conquest. But he doesn't have an ounce of hunger in him, neither for the grail of musical success nor for the hapless Brenda. It may be intended to seem an ambivalent or dubious gesture when, at a climactic moment, he bursts out to her, "Can't you see I'm ready to give you my heart?" As Yoba delivers it, it's entirely unbelievable.

That's ultimately true of Rosenfeld's play, which Carl Forsman has directed with a grazingly light touch. "Negotiations and love songs/Are often mistaken/For one and the same," Paul Simon once sang. In Everythings Turning Into Beautiful, negotiations and love songs have been mistaken for a play.

Everythings Turning Into Beautiful
Written by Seth Zvi Rosenfeld
Directed by Carl Forsman
At Theatre Row's Acorn Theatre

 
Print This Story / Send the Story to a Friend / 8/3/2006 5:48:00 PM

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