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‘Stereophonic’ Evaluate: Hitmakers Rendered in Chic Element


Peering behind the mystique of rock ’n’ roll has plain voyeuristic attraction. So there’s a right away thrill to seeing the mahogany-paneled management room and glassed-in sound sales space that fill the Golden Theater stage, the place “Stereophonic” opened on Friday. However David Adjmi’s astonishing new play, with songs by the previous Arcade Hearth member Will Butler, delivers greater than a dishy glimpse contained in the recording studio throughout rock’s golden age.

A fly-on-the-wall research of how individuals each want and viciously destroy one another, “Stereophonic” is a fiery household drama, as electrifying as any since “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Its real-time dissection of creating music — a collaboration between flawed, gifted artists wrangled into unison — is ingeniously entertaining and an incisive meta commentary on the character of artwork. The play is a staggering achievement, and already looks like a must-see American traditional.

It’s 1976 in Sausalito, Calif., and a not-yet-famous band — at the least not solely impressed by Fleetwood Mac — is laying down the document that can propel it to stardom and unravel the non-public lives of its members (in a lot the identical approach that making “Rumours” did for Fleetwood Mac). The setting (a marvel by scenic designer David Zinn) is a pressure-cooker: The espresso machine is damaged however there’s a gallon bag of cocaine, and tensions and affections — each inventive and private — are operating sizzling.

Directed with a conductor’s precision by Daniel Aukin, “Stereophonic” is an epic canvas rendered in hyper-intimate element: whispered confidences and technical changes, slouches and stares, numerous mendacity round and rolling joints. Stillness and silence are as expressive as Adjmi’s meticulously orchestrated dialogue, physique language typically much more so. It’s potential to learn the band’s ascension to fame past the confines of the studio, as its earlier album creeps up the charts, within the swiveling hips of its lead singer alone (and within the development of prints and flares in Enver Chakartash’s divine costumes).

When the poetic and insecure Diana, performed with gorgeous vulnerability by Sarah Pidgeon, sits down on the piano some 45 minutes into the three-hour present, the actor’s radiant voice delivers the primary important composition the viewers hears: “Brilliant,” a folk-tinged rock ballad with sterling, ethereal vocals. Till then, notes trickle out briefly bursts. Usually interrupted or doled out in riffs, the expressions of character and discord generated by Butler’s music are summary — their fragmentation designed to make you need extra. (Savor the early periods when everybody can stand to be in the identical room.)

Diana’s poisonous romance with Peter (Tom Pecinka) — guitarist, producer, unrelenting narcissist — is a searing and constant supply of emotional combustion. Peter’s willingness to shiv Diana’s smooth spots makes the opposite feuding couple look downright candy: Reg, the boozing, philosophical bassist (performed by Will Brill, with the endearing agility of a Muppet) and the peace-seeking Holly (Juliana Canfield, making a superb Broadway debut). The extent head within the room normally belongs to Simon (an enthralling Chris Stack), besides when an out-of-whack drum package sends him right into a match.

When the bandmates are in formation behind the recording-booth glass — elevated on the next aircraft, their faces enshrined by heat halos (the beautiful lighting is by Jiyoun Chang) — they’re like gods on Mount Olympus glowering down on the tech desk. The upstairs-downstairs dynamic between the musicians and their sound engineers, the low-key formidable Grover (Eli Gelb) and non sequitur-spouting Charlie (Andrew R. Butler), is a font of frequent comedy, together with Grover’s crazed, sleep-deprived impression of Peter and Simon, who run him ragged with all-nighters.

However who has extra energy in a sound studio than the individuals working the mics? Grover and Charlie not solely hear all of it, however management what everybody else (together with the viewers) hears as properly. (Ryan Rumery’s sound design is a technical surprise.) Grover matures probably the most over the yr that the story takes place, from faking it to changing into indispensable, an arc that Gelb traces with unassuming subtlety. Grover’s visibility within the room is one other progress indicator; the band goes from treating him like furnishings to trusting him implicitly. (Poor Charlie doesn’t rise to the identical honor.)

Even now, it’s potential to think about misty-eyed followers of this manufacturing, which premiered Off Broadway in October at Playwrights Horizons (the place the New York Instances critic Jesse Inexperienced known as it “relentlessly compelling”), reflecting on the expertise as if it had been a once-in-a-lifetime stadium tour. And the Broadway switch punches up the quantity on the climactic moments of synchronicity, when the band nails a stellar take or the layers of a track are mixed or fractured to shivering impact.

However the pleasures of “Stereophonic” are extra granular and speedy; its shut and sustained statement of artists, held captive by their needs to create, yields probably the most riveting insights. Like, what’s the level of all of it, anyway? “Life is for enjoyment,” Reg claims. “Life is ache,” Grover counters. If you happen to ask Holly, needing others is the worst half. Nonetheless, there could be no concord with out all the joys and miseries of different individuals.

Stereophonic
Via July 7 on the Golden Theater, Manhattan; stereophonicplay.com. Operating time: 3 hours 10 minutes.



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