Written by John Adams; Directed by Alex Levy
Off Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 6.29.14
Theatre 54, 244 West 54th Street
by Shoshana Roberts on 6.24.14
Briana Pozner, Landon G. Woodson, and Jean Tafler in The Taste of It. Photo by Carrie Crow.
BOTTOM LINE: Two opinionated artists get their sexy on in 1970s Boston.
Lights up and feast your eyes on the sexy wet muscles of Landon G. Woodson. It looked like a few of the audience members wished the towel around his waist would fall. With defined biceps you could chew on and the jaw line of a god he fits right in as Ross, a highly desirable dancer. Opposite Woodson was understudy Michaela Morton as Sheila (Briana Pozner regularly plays this role). What a delight it was to watch their infectious electricity. Jean Tafler was thrown into the mix as Old Sheila, actively observing her younger self, a white Jewish girl, involved with Ross, a black man wanted by all.
Picture Boston. Now shift your image to the '70s. Combine the two and insert Sheila and Ross. Two artists. One director and one dancer. The passion they hold for their crafts and each other radiates heat in all directions. Both are a bit crazy and self involved, but when she barges in on his private dance rehearsal he actually gives her a chance. Though she persuades him to be a part of her play, to her frustration he quits. After a phone call and some wine the sparks continue to fly as their relationship develops. Complications of black and white come into play, though Ross sees Sheila as his equal. She's a freaky white girl: she reads. Eventually Ross's much anticipated dancing is revealed, but is followed by him becoming a neglectful and demanding partner as he gets funding for overseeing an after school dance program. Sheila brings him back to reality enlightening him to all of the work that having your own company entails.
A key aspect of this play is that it is all taking place as a memory. Old Sheila is walking down memory lane, returning to thoughts of her past. Flawlessly and endearingly interacting with Ross and Sheila, Tafler hands off props and observes the couple with dancing eyes. Watching her watch them is a stunning display of her captivating talents.
What struck such a chord with me is the idea of living our lives for each other or for ourselves. The Taste of It shows the necessity of balancing what we need and our ability to share our lives with someone, versus simply putting them in our already existing story. Compromise and communication are key, both lacking in Ross and Sheila's relationship.
This play is composed well, but with a few sections that are hard to follow. Though it is like a beautiful piece of music with each measure incorporating excitement and vigor, they hit a couple notes that sound strange to the ear. Dynamics are what add extra flavor and this production doesn't always utilize crescendos to the best of its ability. I wanted more. I was enjoying watching and hearing and taking everything in, but it didn't quite reach the level of satisfaction I was hoping for. These blundered notes are few and far between and perhaps just a result of a few quick tricky measures. It is a testament to their talent that I became so worked up and yearning for them to take the energy a step further. With a knot in my throat I'm still analyzing the intricacies of the beautiful yet forlorn romance.
(The Taste of It plays at Theatre 54, 244 West 54th Street, through June 29, 2014. Performances are Wednesdays through Fridays at 8PM; Saturdays at 2:30PM and 8PM; and Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are $18 and are available at www.smarttix.com/show.aspx?showcode=TAS6 or by calling 212.686.4444.)