Bright Star will try the patience of even the most tenderhearted romantic | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Bright Star will try the patience of even the most tenderhearted romantic 

Grief and villainy are no match for optimism, dumb luck, and a banjo.

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

click to enlarge boho_theatre_-_bright_star_11_web.jpg

Katie Stanley

Your ability to go along with this 2014 Steve Martin-Edie Brickell musical may hinge on your general willingness to accept the see-through sentiment and plucky hokum that pervades the American musical stage. But given the level of baked-in, overearnest nostalgia, especially in director Ericka Mac's sparkly-eyed staging for BoHo Theatre, even the most romantic sap might ache for something with a bit more depth.

It's 1945, and young soldier Billy Cane returns from the war to small-town North Carolina only to find his mother has died, a trauma he successfully processes with about 32 measures of "She's Gone." An aspiring writer, Billy leaves his bookish maybe-girlfriend Margo and heads to Asheville, lying his way into a meeting with Alice Murphy, the imposing literary editor of the esteemed Asheville Southern Journal. Prickly, asocial Alice has quite a backstory, which began 23 years earlier in backwater Zebulon, where an intelligent, free-spirited girl with big dreams ran into predictable trouble. The show alternates between Billy's past and Alice's present (Jim Crow doesn't exist in either place) until they intertwine in a finale so contrived and saccharine it'll likely curl your toenails.

It's all told through a repetitive bluegrassish score and a radio-serial book that eschew nuance at most every turn, mistaking plot devices for characters, ultimately suggesting that grief and villainy are no match for optimism, dumb luck, and a banjo. It's mostly well sung, despite a rather muddy live band, although the incessantly circulating chorines make it seem like North Carolina is overrun with cheery zombies.   v

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories