By April Stamm
I’m having a hard time not taking it personally, not just because I’m a woman, but because I’m a human on this earth. For something calling itself a “female” song cycle, and touted by its creator as a tribute to the women in his life and the shared experience of womanhood, Jaime Lozano’s A Never-Ending Line: A Female Song Cycle at The Players Theatre seems to have a limited view of women.
Conceived and directed by Lozano (who also wrote the music), A Never-Ending Line is a series of 17 songs sung by four female actors about his (and the nine lyricists’) perception of the female experience. It is disappointingly unclear if each of these four actors (Kat Blackwood, Florencia Cuenca, Emily Esposito, and Erica Wilpon) are portraying the same character throughout, multiple characters, simple female stereotypes or if these songs are to be interpreted independently from each other.
As far as theme, the songs mostly fit into three categories with only a couple exceptions: songs about physical appearance, songs about romantic relationships and songs about motherhood. Aside from the fact that these three subjects far from comprise the totality of the female experience, the view on these topics in the production is disturbingly narrow.
Beauty in the eyes of others is vital to self-worth, according to several of the songs. “Maybe in Florence” tells the hard-to-follow tale of a woman who sees herself as frumpy and plain, but goes to Florence, Italy, and because of another physically beautiful person’s proximity to her, thinks others may see her better (clearly she still thinks of herself as a dud). “Hello Forty” shouts the “fact” that women get more and more nervous and undesirable as they pass through their twenties and god forbid hit forty years old. I can’t even write about the song “Diet or Die,” without fury, the title speaks for itself. The few songs that seemingly step away from these narrow views of love and beauty and make a vague attempt to discuss something else fall flat. “Our Fav’rite Pair of Heels” implies that woman can ponder topics like current events, their career, etc., but they’re best at it when they’re looking good.
I would love to say that the performances are the saving grace of this show. Unfortunately, the vocal talent is so amateur in tone and performance quality and the intonation frequently painful that I can’t. Musically, the accompanists, Geraldine Anello (musical director and keyboard), Karen Speyer (harp), and Melanie Mason (cello) are adequate with no particular flaws. However, they play with no particular passion or joy either. In their defense, the music by creator Jaime Lozano is flat, repetitive and at times musically confusing. Fernanda Aldaz’s choreography is forced, awkward and busy. There is a lot of work with chairs that involves violently sliding them across the stage, strange synchronized hand gestures and silly chair line dancing.
Beyond the underwhelming vocal performances, unnecessary and strained choreography, and unmemorable music, the biggest problem is this production’s insulting, demeaning and possibly hurtful portrayals of women. It cannot be excused away as a plot with some misogynist characters, or a critical look and gender and status because the very point — according to the creator of this piece — is to honor and portray what he sees as the strength of women. I think Mr. Lozano and the nine female lyricists need to take a hard look at A Never-Ending Line and an in-depth look around at the countless examples of women’s strengths and complexities.
A Never-Ending Line: A Female Song Cycle
115 MacDougal Street, NYC
Through September 17
April Stamm is a theatre, food, and lifestyle journalist. She is a regular contributor to The Broadway Blog and EDGE Media Network and is a Chef Instructor at the International Culinary Center.