Gettin' Down with the Joneses | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Gettin' Down with the Joneses 

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Gettin' Down with the Joneses, American Dream Works Productions LLC, at Victory Gardens Theater. Based on an idea they first played around with in 1976, started working on in earnest in 1985, and only now have given a full professional production, Loren Comitor and Karolus Smejda's first musical, Gettin' Down With the Joneses, focuses on a world that's always ripe for satirical exploration, especially given downsizing, hostile takeovers, and a competitive global economy: upper-middle-class corporate America.

Not that Comitor and Smejda have a clue how to mine this gold. Their potentially wonderful story about a rising middle-aged executive who suddenly finds himself "rightsized" out of a job is told in the flattest, sappiest, most predictable way possible. His wife stands by him, his friends support him, he appreciates the love and support. He gets a little crabby sometimes, but he never goes through the kind of deep spiritual and emotional crisis that makes for good theater. Early in the first act he finds his true calling, carpentry, but for the sake of dramatic tension he resists the idea--for an act and a half.

To fill up time he and his wife and his friends and a handful of utter strangers--all played by an incredible cast of ill-used music-theater professionals, led by Scott Schumacher and Lori Hammel--sing bland, forgettable songs (by Comitor and Smejda) about love and life and the universe, while we in the audience glance at our watches and admire for the 100th time Scott Cooper's beautiful, inventive set. --Jack Helbig

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