Written by Daniella Litvak
Full disclosure: I love Rent. I’ve seen this updated modern version of La Bohéme about seven friends (or eight depending on how you feel about Benny) who struggle with AIDS, poverty, and love in NYC’s Alphabet City, more times then I can even remember. I’ve listened to the original cast recording countless times and I’m still very angry about the movie version’s needless adaptational changes.
After watching this show so many times, I now have particular versions of how characters should sound or how certain numbers should be performed stuck in my head. It took a little while to get acclimated to Theatre Out’s version of it. Yet soon, I found myself liking this cast’s delivery on certain lines and their various reactions to the craziness happening onstage.
The song “Over The Moon” couldn’t get any hammier, Erin Ortegon (Maureen) proved me wrong. Ortegon’s performance was glorious in a wonderful way. I have to say, though not all the musical numbers were great, the choreography did salvaged some of them. My favorites were the songs featuring the entire cast singing: “Will I,” “La Vie Boheme,” and “Finale.”
The performance of the cast as a whole felt stronger than any individual performance. This includes the actors who took on all the various secondary and cameo roles: Sara Falaro, Paloma Armijo, Diego Matthew Casto, Kimberlee Stone, Dustin Thompson, Juan Castro, Brandon Stevens, Joscelyn Lucille Graham, and Kat Gutierrez. They were wonderful and felt just as vital to the show as the main characters. I really missed them in Act II when they had less to do.
What are the benefits of seeing Rent at Theatre Out? Its smaller stage captures the cramped, New York tenement atmosphere. The small space can get overwhelmingly loud at times, but it does provide an immersive experience –especially during the song “Will I,” which packs an incredible amount of grief and you feel it as much as the characters. If you’re seated in the front row, you’re in for some audience participation. You may get a lap dance from Mimi or hold a prop for Maureen. It’s both fun and uncomfortable. It’s kind of a shame more audience participation wasn’t incorporated into the second act because it added something new.
Theatre Out also takes advantage of being a smaller alternative theatre and they get away with things a touring company couldn’t. It revels in being sexier and naughtier. The set design features artwork with graphic subject matter. It works but can be a bit distracting.
“While Mimi was begging Roger to take her out, I was still pondering the meaning of the painting of a blue jay on top of a penis.”
Still all of it drives home the point that our protagonists don’t live in a squeaky-clean world, and their lifestyles are killing them.
Rent at Theatre Out was a unique experience. If the characters could choose where Rent is performed, they would choose Theatre Out.
Jul 10, 2015 – Aug 29, 2015
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