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May 6-30, 2010
Book and lyrics by Nick Salamone.
Music by Maury R. McIntyre.
Directed by Ira Spector.
Musical Direction by Patrick Marion.
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Nick Salamone is an award-winning playwright whose work has been presented around the country and in Great Britain. He is the author of nine produced plays: Moscow (Fringe First & Audience Favorite Awards at Edinburgh Fringe, Garland Award), Gulls (LA Weekly, Garland & TicketHolder Awards, Ovation nomination), Sea Change (Maddy Award, LA Weekly & Garland noms.), The All Souls’ Trilogy: All Souls’ Day, Riff & Credos, Whalewatchers (Maddy Award). Red Hat & Tales (British Theatre Guide Best of Fringe), Hillary Agonistes (published by Broadway Plays), and Another House on Mercy Street(on which the award-winning film, Mercy Street was based). Moscow and Sea Change will be published by Broadway Plays in 2010. Nick is a graduate of the Nautilus Music/Theatre Workshop and the 2007 recipient of the Playwrights’ Arena Award for Outstanding Contribution to the LA Theatre Community. He is also a professional actor.
Maury McIntyre (Music) received a 2009 L.A. Weekly Award and a Backstage West Garland Award for his score for Gulls, his third collaboration with Nick Salamone. The show was also nominated for a 2008 Ovation Award for Book/Lyrics/Music for an Original Musical. For Moscow, his second collaboration with Nick Salamone, Maury’s score received both a 1998 Backstage West Garland Award (Los Angeles) and a Fringe First Award (Edinburgh). In 2001, Moscow was also awarded the Audience Favorite Award (musical category) at the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival. Prior to Moscow, Maury composed a complete score/soundscape for the 1995 premiere of Salamone’s Riffs & Credos. Maury has also composed interstitial music for such diverse plays as Joined at the Head, All in the Timing, The Triumph of Love, The Mandrake, and A Christmas Carol. He received his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts.
Angelo D’Agostino, Kevin Koppman-Gue and John Whitley.
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Trapped in limbo, three gay men stage a musical production of Chekhov’s The Three Sisters. A compelling fusion of music, emotion, melancholy, and lust. “…a timely tribute to the redemptive powers of art, a reminder that even the most apparently hopeless lives can be transformed through the unifying fellowship of the theater. – The L.A. Times
Chekhov gets a gay, musical update in witty ‘Moscow’
By Pam Kragen – email@example.com | Posted: May 12, 2010
As Shakespeare proved, there’s no such thing as a new idea in theater —- just new ways to tell the same story.
A whole lot of plays get sprinkled into the charming new musical “Moscow,” now in production at San Diego’s Diversionary Theatre, and it’s fascinating to see how many ways they intersect.
The main inspiration for “Moscow” book writer/lyricist Nick Salamone and composer Maury R. McIntyre was Anton Chekhov’s 1901 drama “Three Sisters,” though ideas are borrowed from Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit,” Terrence McNally’s “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and even the musical “Forever Plaid.”
The story concerns three gay men trapped in a theater with the apparent mission of performing “Three Sisters.” Along the way, the men reveal secrets, fight, bond, couple and come apart, and sing their way through a delightful 16-song score.
Diversionary vet Angelo D’Agostino (“Valhalla,” “Boys in the Band”) returns to lead the small cast and sings most of the numbers with beauty, thoughtfulness, and tenderness. Although the show is an ensemble effort, with strong performances by John Whitley and Kevin Koppman-Gue, D’Agostina is the charismatic heart of the show, and his commitment to the part keeps the audience from noticing the occasional gaps in the script.
As in the existential “No Exit,” three characters are trapped in a room with no doors or windows and no concept of why they’re there or when they arrived. In Sartre’s play, the trio realizes they’re dead and in Hell, thanks to a murder and other sins they committed in life. But in “Moscow,” the biblically named characters —- Jon, Matt, and Luke —- are stuck in a dark theater, they may or may not be alive, and no mortal sins appear to have been committed.
The only clue to their stranding is their discovery of a Russian-language copy of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters.” The oldest of the characters, Jon (who happens to read Russian and is an experienced stage director), decides they were deposited in this theater (a la “Forever Plaid”) to perform a musical version of “Three Sisters,” and once they’re finished, the answers to their exile will be explained.
Each man takes on the role of a sister very much like himself.
Jon (Whitley), plays eldest sister Olga, the burned-out schoolteacher who has sacrificed her dreams for the good of the family. Like Olga, Jon is frozen in place, unable emotionally to move on with his life since the AIDS-related death of his lover and many of their friends from Fire Island (the gay-friendly Long Island beach resort setting for McNally’s AIDS-themed plays).
Matt (D’Agostino) plays Masha, the restless middle sister who’s trapped in a loveless marriage and infatuated with a visiting soldier. Matt is also infatuated, but with Jon, a relationship he fails to pursue because he’s afraid of intimacy. The 20something virgin is still battling the scars of childhood sexual abuse by a family member.
And the edgy, Alabama-bred street hustler Luke (Koppman-Gue) reluctantly plays Irina, the impulsive, passionate youngest sister who dreams of escaping the family home and returning to Moscow, the city her family left 11 years before.
For the three sisters and the three men in this play, Moscow represents hope, a fresh start, and a chance at love. In Chekhov’s play, the sisters’ hopes are dashed and they face the future with grim resolution. In “Moscow,” the future is uncertain, but there’s a glimmer of optimism, and —- like the sisters —- the men seem resolved to forge on, united in the end as brothers.
The script’s most ingenious element is the puzzlelike interweaving of the “Moscow” and “Three Sisters” characters. But the character development for the male characters — particularly Luke and Jon —- is paper-thin. Luke comes off as little more than a seething redneck. And Jon’s motivation for a sexual encounter in the second act, particularly after you know his past, is hard to comprehend.
Directed by Ira Spector, “Moscow” moves along at a brisk clip, so brisk in fact that audience members would be wise to familiarize themselves beforehand with the “Three Sisters” plot because they’re likely to get lost in the blizzard of Russian names and plot twists. McIntyre’s score —- performed by a three-member onstage ensemble led by musical director/pianist Patrick Marion —- is dominated by pretty ballads, with a few uptempo ensembles. The best numbers, all performed by D’Agostino, are “Empty Room,” “Becoming Me” and “So Long, Matt,” as well as the dramatic ensemble “Italian for Window.”
“Moscow” runs two hours with intermission; it is the closing production of Diversionary’s 24th season.
By Steven Stanley
May 8, 2010
Three gay men find themselves trapped in an empty theater that may be heaven, hell, or somewhere in-between (with only Chekhov’s The Three Sisters as their companion) in Nick Salamone and Maury R. McIntyre’s engaging, touching chamber musical Moscow, now playing at San Diego’s Diversionary Theatre.
Middle-aged Jon (John Whitley), virginal Matt (Angelo D’Agostino), and rebellious Luke (Kevin Koppman-Gue) are already on stage playing softball with a pincushion ball and a broomstick bat when the audience enters, pausing only for Dan Kirsch’s curtain speech before donning pieces of theater curtain—Jon confectioning a headscarf, Matt a shawl, and Luke a skirt—for the show’s opening number. It seems that the softball match was merely a warm-up for their latest pastime, reenacting Chekhov’s The Three Sisters with Jon as Olga, Matt as Masha, and Luke as Irina.
It soon becomes obvious that Luke has no interest at all in portraying one of Chekhov’s siblings. Luke: “I know Jon, they wanna go to Moscow till they puke, but nothing ever happens, nothing important.” Jon: “Nothing important, Luke? Just their lives!” Not about to take no for an answer, Jon sings Luke some “Cliff Notes” about The Three Sisters, but Luke remains resistant. The only Russian he’s ever heard about is Rocky And Bullwinkle’s Natasha, so he wonders if there’s a Boris too. “No, there’s no Boris!” snaps back Jon, who will hear nothing about Luke’s quitting. Whether he likes it or not, he’s “in there” just as Jon and Matt are, and there’s no exit. (Sartre references intentional.)
As Moscow progresses, Salamone’s book and lyrics tell us more about each character.
We learn that Jon’s deceased lover was a theater director who died during the second read-through of The Three Sisters, and it becomes obvious rather quickly that shy Matt has a thing for the sophisticated older man. Though Jon is to play Olga, Matt thinks the character he truly resembles is Masha’s married lover Vershinin, and the pair duet “The Love Scene” with Matt as Masha and Jon as Vershinin. Though Jon is skeptical (“For God’s sake, I sound like Margaret Thatcher on ecstasy”), Matt clearly relishes being able to tell Jon things as Masha that he’d never have the courage to say as himself.
If Jon takes after Vershinin, then, says Matt, Masha is like his own mother, an African American woman who loved Matt’s Caucasian father despite knowing that he would never marry her. In “Mosco’,” Matt channels Diana Ross as he recalls the Mom from Detroit who moved away from the Motor City to raise her son in Moscow, Idaho.
Meanwhile, Luke rages at Jon for always needing to be in control and wonders once again why God is doing this to them, and why they have to waste their time on The Three Sisters, to which Jon explains that “by some accident, a book was left here alone with us in this theater. It happened to be a play, a Russian play. I happened to know Russian. The Three Sisters I something we do to give order to our days.”
A love triangle soon develops, as Luke begins to reveal his feelings for Matt (“I like the way you move”). Still, as much as Matt wants to stay where he is (“I feel alive here”), Luke, like his character Irina, is desperate to escape, always dreaming of returning home to (song cue) “Alabama,” Olympic torch in hand, riding on a Harley with Greg Louganis and Martina Navratilova. It turns out that Luke was kicked out of his home at 14 when his father found him “goin’ down on a colored boy,” and he hasn’t been back since.
Throughout Moscow, Salamone’s clever, witty lyrics and McIntyre’s beautiful, lilting melodies help us know Jon, Matt, and Luke better. In “Touch,” Luke expresses to Matt a simple but profound longing for human contact. (“Maybe not what you’d want at all out there, but in here, I’m a warm body and I can be tender. Maybe not what you want. But you could pretend.”). In the gorgeous “Empty Room,” Luke expresses how deeply in love he has fallen with Jon. In the poignant “Behind me,” Jon recalls memories of vacations in Fire Island with his lover.
Exactly where Jon, Matt, and Luke find themselves is left up to each audience member to decide. So, I suppose, is the writers’ message, though certainly one that this reviewer took away from the piece is the transformative power of theater, Chekhov’s The Three Sisters providing solace to three lost souls. The message you derive may be entirely different.
None of this thematic ambiguity gets in the way of audience enjoyment, however. Moscow has charm, wit, and a trio of appealing characters we come to care about, particularly as portrayed by the talented Diversionary cast under the confident direction of Ira Spector.
Whitley, excellent as both actor and singer, shows us Jon’s inner conflicts, his longing for things lost, and his attempts to bring back some past happiness by staging the play that his lover could not finish. D’Agostino plays against his Mediterranean heartthrob good looks to create a sweet, lonely, sensitive Matt, and his rich, resonant voice is, in a word, sublime. Koppman-Gue’s cocky, needy Luke, night-and-day different from his nerdy virgin in the recent Speech & Debate, reveals an actor of versatility, and he too scores vocally, particularly in “Alabama.”
Providing first-rate backup to the cast’s vocals is musical director Patrick Marion on piano, joined behind the black curtain by Ana Brown on violin and Rik Ogden on flute, an entirely appropriate choice of instruments for a chamber musical.
A simple but effective set design by Megan Schmidt drapes theater curtains around the stage’s black walls. Schmidt also gets thumbs up for her costume and property designs. Karin Filijan’s lighting design enhances mood changes from song to song. Bret Young is the production manager and Josh Hyatt is the stage manager, assisted by Sarah Palmer.
Moscow brings Diversionary’s 2009-10 season to a memorable end. A delicate delight, it is likely to please a broad spectrum of musical theater devotees, and even though, like The Three Sisters, Jon, Matt, and Luke may never make it to Moscow, theirs is certainly a journey worth experiencing.
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April 10, 2010
The musical play “Moscow” final show of Diversionary’s season
A compelling fusion of music, emotion, melancholy, and lust.
Diversionary Theatre will stage the musical play Moscow as the sixth and final show of their 2009-2010 season. Moscow is a musical play involving three men attempting to define who they are and why they are confined together in an abandoned theatre. While enduring their “soul searching,” they make use of their time by playing sock ball and by acting out various roles from Anton Chekhov’s play The Three Sisters. While self-exploration, relationship conflict, and gay romance are part of the chemistry, Moscow amplifies universal and eternal questions: “Who are we, Where are we, and Why are we here?”
Moscow was created by Nick Salamone (book and lyrics) and Maury R. McIntyre (music), and was first produced in Los Angeles in 1998 and went on to win the top honor at that year’s Edinburgh Festival. Diversionary’s production will be directed by Ira Spector, with musical direction by Patrick Marion. The musical play features Angelo D’Agostino, Kevin Koppman-Gue and John Whitley. Live music will come from the piano, flute, and violin. The show will run for four weeks from May6-30. Moscow is underwritten in part by an estate gift from Bill Hughes.
The Los Angeles Times had this to say about the play: “It’s not often that one thinks of existentialism and musicals in the same context. Yet Moscow is exactly that—an existential musical. Three gay men, trapped in some indeterminate limbo, mount a cross-dressing, musical production of Chekhov’s “The Three Sisters” in a desperate attempt to make sense of their existential dilemma. It plays a lot like “No Exit” with solos. But don’t expect the sour erudition of Sartre in this case. Existentialism with a heart, the show melds typically antithetical extremes—such as intellectualism and sweetness, for instance—into one richly diverting oddity. Jon (John Whitley), a scholarly playwright who has lost many loved ones to AIDS, has retreated into cerebral celibacy. Luke (Kevin Koppman-Gue), a sexually needy male hustler, lives solely for the next fleshly encounter. And Matt (Angelo D’Agostino), a shy virgin, struggles to balance the conflicting urges of love and lust. Trapped, uncertain if they are alive or dead, the men soon become emotionally embroiled. Naturally, romance is rocky in this limbo: Luke loves Matt, who is resolutely inaccessible to Luke’s advances; Matt loves Jon, who is resolutely inaccessible to Matt’s advances, and so on, circularly. Unlike the tormented trio in “No Exit,” who spiral into despair, the characters in “Moscow” rally, recoup, and bond. It’s a timely tribute to the redemptive powers of art, a reminder that even the most apparently hopeless lives can be transformed through the unifying fellowship of the theater.”
Nick Salamone (Book and Lyrics) is the author of nine produced plays: Moscow (Fringe First & Audience Favorite Awards at Edinburgh Fringe, Garland Award), Gulls (LA Weekly, Garland & TicketHolder Awards, Ovation nomination), Sea Change (Maddy Award, LA Weekly & Garland nominations), The All Souls’ Trilogy: All Souls’ Day, Riff & Credos, Whalewatchers (Maddy Award), Red Hat & Tales (British Theatre Guide Best of Fringe), Hillary Agonistes (published by Broadway Plays), and Another House on Mercy Street (on which the award-winning film, Mercy Street was based). Salamone is a graduate of the Nautilus Music/Theatre Workshop and the 2007 recipient of the Playwrights’ Arena Award for Outstanding Contribution to the LA Theatre Community. He is also a professional actor.
Maury McIntyre (Music) received a 2009 L.A. Weekly Award and a Backstage West Garland Award for his score for Gulls, his third collaboration with Salamone. The show was also nominated for a 2008 Ovation Award for Book/Lyrics/Music for an Original Musical. For Moscow, his score received both a 1998 Backstage West Garland Award (Los Angeles) and a Fringe First Award (Edinburgh). In 2001, Moscow was also awarded the Audience Favorite Award (musical category) at the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival. Prior to Moscow, McIntyre composed a complete score/soundscape for the 1995 premiere of Salamone’s Riffs & Credos. He has also composed interstitial music for such diverse plays as Joined at the Head, All in the Timing, The Triumph of Love, The Mandrake, and A Christmas Carol. He received his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts.
Ira Spector directs. His San Diego directing credits include Into The Woods and Songs for a New World at San Diego State University; Zanna, Don’t; and served as directing intern for the world premiere of the Broadway-bound The First Wives Club at The Old Globe. He directed Bethiah Sings at Chicago’s Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, where he also assistant directed Bare and Look Inside and Listen. He earned a double BFA degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder in Musical Theatre and Theatre Performance. He will earn his Masters of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre (Directing Emphasis) from SDSU, graduating in May of this year.
Diversionary’s creative team for Moscow includes Megan Schmidt (Assistant Director, plus Scenic, Costume and Prop Design), Karin Filijan (Lighting Design), Josh Hyatt (Stage Manager), and Sarah Palmer (Assistant Stage Manager).
Diversionary Theatre was started in 1986. The mission of the theatre is to produce plays with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender themes that portray characters in their complexity and diversity both historically and contemporarily.
Moscow previews May 6 and 7, opens on Saturday, May 8, and runs through Sunday, May 30. Food for the opening night party will be provided by www.diversionary.org.
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