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Was it Something We Said?

This could be a first. Or, it least it's the first time I have heard of it happening in L.A.  One of our regular Back Stage West critics decided to call to make press reservations for "Mental," a new small-scale musical at Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica. We had previously reviewed  this show (quite scathingly) in our June 21 issue. Our freelancer received a message back from the show's publicist asking him to consider seeing it later because "in response to early critical reaction, the creators..will be doing some retooling and revamping on it this weekend..."

Besides our less-than-glowing review ("mind-numbing...idiotic...grating and offensive characterizaton..rambling and banal...inanity... a mess...muddled soap opera") for this feel-good tuner about how a severly dsyfunctional family solves years of family-baggage problems--including suicide and physical abuse--within two days with the help of a sicker-than-they-are screaming-queen therapist,  Paul Birchall reviewed it none too favorably in the L.A. Weekly. To wit: "The work's odd structure lurches from one family member's half-baked problem to the next in a way that undercuts sympathy for any of them...production is chaotic...sluggish dramatic scenes meshed up against peppy musical numbers, whose forgettable lyrics and melodies are poorly integrated with the very talky bits.." 

Both Birchall's review and our review found a degee of compensation in certain peformances (and sympathy for the performers), but these were not the sort of  reviews that were awash with strong ad quote material.  We sincerely hope things are a lot better when this very peculiar piece finishes its retooling. In fairness, we should also perhaps report that the opening night audience on June 15 whooped it up and cheered, as if this was "The Producers" and "Hairspray" rolled into one. Come to think of, combining those two plots would make about as much sense as this one did.  To each his own, I guess.

--Les Spindle

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