Written and Directed by Benjamin Folstein
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Musical
Runs through 8.29.15
VENUE #6: DROM, 85 Avenue A
by Sarah Moore on 8.21.15
Gavin Rohrer and Elise Reynard in Love is Like Mud. Photo by Benjamin Folstein.
BOTTOM LINE: Love is Like Mud is an entertaining new musical with fantastic songs.
Love is Like Mud is in some ways a typical story: boy meets girl on the subway, gets girl’s number, falls in love with girl. Writer/director Benjamin Folstein manages to turn this typical love story on its head with his unique voice in this appealing new rock musical.
The show is playing at DROM, more of a rock club than a theater, which is appropriate for this material. Gavin Rohrer stars as Jon, with appealing newcomer Taylor Kate Manns as his significant other, Anne. Both Rohrer and Manns have surprisingly great rock voices which perfectly complement Folstein’s score. Elise Reynard and Jay Liebowitz are also very good as Jon's parents, as well as other characters.
The band Level II accompanies the story, which starts with lessons from Jon’s parents, beginning with the titular advice: “love is like mud” (as opposed to a diamond). Jon has some dates lined up, but he is basically a typical bachelor. Then he meets Anne on the subway, where he sees she is reading a sci-fi book. He runs into her again in the same spot, a few days later, before they begin seriously dating.
In the tight space at DROM, the set is purely projection. The very clever set projections are by Alex Koch. In addition, the actors have cartoony sandwich board costumes. (Production design is credited to Birdhouse Studios, Becky Holmes, Dylan Bean, Lily Merrill and Ben Folstein.)
Folstein is a refreshing new musical theater voice. His music is catchy and melodic, with strong storytelling lyrics. My only qualm with the material is that it feels more like a concept album or a song cycle than a full musical. The songs are unquestionably good, but we don’t get much detail in the character description and the plot is pretty low stakes. Perhaps in future incarnations, the team can decide whether it is better to craft the show as more of a song cycle, or a fully fleshed out book musical. Love is Like Mud is a great Fringe show for anyone from a first time Fringe-goer to a seasoned veteran.
(Love is Like Mud plays at VENUE #6: DROM, 85 Avenue A, through August 29, 2015. Performances are Sun 8/16 at 4; Thu 8/20 at 9:30; Sun 8/23 at 1:45; Fri 8/28 at 7; and Sat 8/29 at 4:45. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit loveislikemud.com.)