For you youngsters who get all your music electronically: a liner note is as foreign to you as a 45 rpm adapter so let me break it down for you – liner notes were like mini blog entries that came with an album and often were the first thing some people went for when they got their hands on a record. Back in the day (when you had to Buy a Record at a Store and wait to get it home) before you could listen to the music there was always a little thrill on the car (or bus or subway) ride home – coaxing that vinyl in its paper sleeve out of the album cover and reading the liner notes in anticipation of getting that baby home and slapping it on the turntable. It was here where, like a novelette, the experience of the album, the anecdotes, (the written dvd extras, if you will) were all there in sweet little teaspoon heaping, just the right size to tantalize you and make you want to dive into the album.
But what if liner notes were the only thing you had to go on in order to truly know who your recently-deceased father was? This is the question that Liner Notes (written by Written by John Patrick Bray directed by Erin Smiley and now playing at the Robert Moss Theatre) asks.
When the Larger-Than-Life rock legend dies he leaves behind a grieving widow, a daughter, Alice (Kathryn Elisabeth Lawson) with a knapsack full of mysteries, and little else – - except for the shadows of his old band, namely George (Michael Bertolini) who wasn’t exactly speaking him when he was alive and some how couldn’t make peace with him enough even after his death in order to come and pay his last respects. George now spends a heck of a lot of time in his bathrobe eating Hungry Man dinners and working to intentionally forget The Good Old Days.
Alice makes the journey from home to him and arrives on her “uncle’s” doorstep tired, wired, and stubbornly unwilling to leave until she gets more than just the “liner notes” version of the man who has left this earth for good.
In their crazy time together Alice and George fill in the blanks for each other, helping to explain to each other what was true and what was just a good story, and eventually arrive at the truth together. During their emotional journey they laugh a little, sing a little, flirt a little, and open up . . . maybe more than just a little. Alice also convices George to do a little strumming at an open mic night which is nice, as Bertolini holds that guitar like someone who once made his living by coaxing a melody out of it on a daily basis.
Liner Notes is a touching two-person play that relies heavily on investing in these characters in two ways – both separately as well as together. Michael Bertolini and Kathryn Elisabeth Lawson are both terrific actors and they allow their on-stage chemistry to evolve naturally and evenly, director Erin Smiley understands just how to unfold this story so that we believe in it. She neither rushes nor draws out the pacing, and so it falls about you in a sincere way without jagged edges or skips in the record.
It may be a simple story, but this one strikes all the right chords.
~~~LINER NOTES Produced by (re:) Directions Theatre Company
benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Written by John Patrick Bray Directed by Erin Smiley Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission Performance location: The Robert Moss Theater, 440 Lafayette Street, 3rd floor Performance dates: Thurs 6/3 @ 6:30pm Sat 6/5 @ 1:30pm Mon 6/7 @ 4:30pm Sun 6/13 @ 5pm Wed 6/23 @ 4:30pm Fri 6/25 @ 6:30pm Purchase tickets here.