The Happiest Medium welcomes guest reviewer, Mariah MacCarthy. Mariah is the Producing Director Of CAPS LOCK THEATRE.
It’s a shame that the word “charming” has the air of damning with faint praise, because I’m not sure how else to characterize Nat Cassidy’s Songs of Love: A Theatrical Mixtape. “Charming” sounds cutesy, it sounds mediocre-romantic-comedy, it sounds fluffy, and Mixtape is none of these. It’s simply charming as all get-out. It’s, like, Jon-Stewart-charming. It’s that-fun-co-worker-who-makes-you-actually-look-forward-to-going-to-work charming. You get the idea.
Mixtape is just that, a mixtape (or its theatrical equivalent), in which short plays about love are interspersed with songs about love, which Cassidy sings and plays on guitar. It’s like an episode of “Kids in the Hall” written by Ionesco and scored by Jonathan Richman. And this mixtape is so diverse that at times, you find yourself wondering, “Who is the real Nat Cassidy?” Some shorts are more sketch-y (a song about giving your girlfriend HPV, or a couple of ditzy-seeming club girls who intersperse “I know, right?”s with hilariously highbrow academic references). Some are more absurdist (an unexplained ticking noise that drives a couple apart, or a parking space scuffle that leads to decapitation). It can be hard to believe that the same writer wrote them all, and is a testament to Cassidy’s versatility that he did.
But there are two shorts in the evening where I found myself saying, “Ah-ha. THIS must be the real Nat Cassidy.” In these moments, Cassidy’s voice is truly unique, confident, and strong. These two shorts are so gorgeous they just about defy gravity.
One is a monologue performed by (dare I say the incomparable?) Kristen Vaughan, in which a third-person “she” looks at the moon and thinks about a long-deceased first love. I can’t think of a way to describe this monologue in a way that does it justice, except to say that I wrote nearly half the thing down verbatim in my notebook as I watched because I wanted to make sure I’d remember those lines.
Lines like, “Innocence is simply experience that hasn’t made up its mind yet.”
Or, “When a possibility dies, it does not leave a body … but it does leave a smell.”
Or, “Bodies are the worst, cruelest liars. And they make up their minds without having all the facts.” It’s hilariously self-referential, and poetic, and chilling.
The other is the penultimate track on this mixtape, a first date that is going really well. When the girl (Abby Royle) presses her date (Ben Williams) to tell her how he found her online, his answer is more than she bargained for: it involves suicide, and manslaughter, and porn, among other things. Williams’ performance in this moment is one of the most upsetting, honest, jaw-droppingly raw moments of theater I’ve ever seen. His date almost runs away (and perhaps we wouldn’t blame her if she did), but when she doesn’t, you feel a little better about humanity, and maybe your eyes mist up.
The ensemble is solid, and they do that unquantifiable thing where you get the impression they really like being onstage with each other and saying these words.
With just a couple of chairs and a table (and a big poster covered in pictures of genital warts), they make rapid jumps in location and tone without ever losing us.
They are energetic and adorable and it’s very easy to want to hug them.
As for the “actual” songs on this mixtape that intersperse the action, the ones that Cassidy performs live…well, they came with the press kit and I’m currently listening to them on repeat and imagine I will be doing so for the foreseeable future. So, there’s that.
At the end of the evening, my date turned to me and said, “This restored my faith in theater,” and it’s easy to see why. Mixtape is compassionate, hysterical, and has moments of gut-punching raw beauty. My one regret is that I saw it so late in its run and can’t actually drive people into its audience. Here’s hoping it comes back to charm us once again.
Songs of Love: A Theatrical Mixtape
Tin Drum Productions
Writer: Nat Cassidy
Director: Nat Cassidy
Genital warts. Mothmen. Decapitation. Pornography. Bagel fucking. And, of course … love. Join multi-award-winning author Nat Cassidy through terrifyingly twisted, outrageously heartfelt stories of love–each complemented by an original song performed onstage by a live (not dead) musician.
1h 45m Local Brooklyn, New York
Staycation: Ride the Rollercoaster of Love Fantasy Island Excursion
VENUE #10: The Players Theatre
Sat 11 @ 2:30 Tue 14 @ 7 Thu 23 @ 9:45 Fri 24 @ 9:45 Sat 25 @ 2:15