If you have a best friend. If you are one. If you love books. Or have been transformed by one. If you are a teacher. Or have ever been shaped by one. If you’re a freak, but prefer the term individual. If you’ve ever stood up for someone. If you believe a butterfly is never JUST a butterfly. If you’re a writer. If you’re a work in progress. If you’ve ever rushed into something. Or changed your mind. If you’ve ever made an angel in the snow. Or seen It’s a Wonderful Life. If you’ve ever been inspired. Or been inspiration. If you love a good story. Or have ever gotten lost in one. If you’ve ever spoken from the heart. Or had your heart broken. If you’ve ever felt you were on the edge of greatness. Or just on the edge. If you’ve ever thought “is this it?” If you’ve ever asked “what would make me happy?” If you’ve ever lost touch. If you’ve ever had to say goodbye. If you’ve ever left the tear-jerker for the end. If you’ve ever found yourself in a dark theatre on a Friday night with tears down your cheeks and thankful for the experience, then please, go see The Tabard Theatre Company’s production of The Story of My Life at the Theatre on San Pedro Square.
The intimacy of this theatre and the personal commitment from the two actors that carry the entire show are a match made in heaven. It helps too that the director speaks the same language as the playwright and that the playwright and composer speak nothing short of “genius” with all the emotion and suspense of coming across a private journal or a box of old photos. As we are invited into the mind, heart and soul of Thomas, a poetic sentiment unfolds that is seldom expressed with such nuanced, sweet and lyrical honesty. The evolution of a cherished friendship is explored in a way that is identifiable and yet rich with articulate newness.
Play and performances were so sincere and so unforced, that we are truly rewarded with an abundance of insightful thoughts swaddled in gorgeous phrase after gorgeous phrase. Hardly a word was lost in this entire show which is quite a feat given that the music is complex and holds few traditional “hummable” melodies. Indeed the music (think Sondheim-like) has a remarkably magical effect and proves a clever partner to the prose. Rather than overpower the lyrics or even reside on the same level as the lyrics, the music acts almost like a cinematic score and in a way, the relationship between book and music mirrors that of Alvin and Thomas. You hardly notice that they are singing at all and yet somehow what they are saying is punctuated with the emotional vibrations of notes.
The expertly played cello, piano and clarinet trio serve as a beautiful accompaniment for the vocal, providing yet another layer to this delicious theatrical wafer. As we blissfully allow it to melt in our mouths, we savor its flavor despite the knowledge that it will not last forever, that it must come to an end. I found myself feeling much like I did when I first discovered my favorite author. Thirteen years of age, reading late into the night by flashlight, new discoveries, new revelations, and new worlds unfurled with every page turn, living in those chapters, but all too aware that I would eventually reach that last page.
Physically, the musicians were thinly veiled behind a scrim. Though still visible and while not terribly distracting, it did strike me as a bit of a logistical compromise (where else can we put them?) rather than an artistic choice. For me this partial silhouetting was the only possible “amature” aspect about the show, but given the high-caliber of every other facet of the production, it ultimately didn’t detract too often or too negatively at any point during the show.
Aside from the masking of the musicians, my only other very minor criticisms were some microphone challenges (which will likely have already ironed themselves out) and a beige monochromatic set that was a bit too literal at times and just too bland for me at others. Taking into consideration that I happen to dream in color cartoon it stands to reason my “memories” might be a bit more Technicolor than the average audience member and so I wager this may not bother anyone but me.
When it comes down to it, quite simply, I can’t think of a reason not to see this show. Five out of five precious jewels on the tiara for a surprisingly earnest musical that provides a perfect blend of entertainment and dramatic therapy. The Story of My Life runs through November 20th at the Theatre in San Pedro Square in Downtown San Jose.
***The show runs roughly 90 minutes with no intermission. Ample and inexpensive parking is located across the street and there are plenty of places to eat nearby including Pizza Bocca Lupo inside the brand new San Pedro Square Market.