Thursday, November 7, 2013

Longing for Love at the Arts Garage


Looking for Love in Delray Beach

By Skip Sheffield

It’s right there in the title “The Longing and the Short of It,” running through Nov. 24 at the Arts garage, 180 N.E. First St., Delray Beach.
Canadian composer/playwright Daniel Mate loves wordplay. He also knows pursuit is the essence of romantic love; not necessarily the consummation.
“The Longing” is not a full musical, nor is it a musical revue. Mate calls it a song cycle, and that it is; a collection of 24 original songs on the topic of love and the lack or loss of it in the 21st century.
This song cycle, guest directed by Max Friedman, though mainly centered on the pursuit of love, friendship and acceptance, also touches on the peculiarities and fragmentation of 21st century society and relationships. In this way it reminded me a bit of the landmark British satirical TV comedy series, “That Was the Week That Was,” although less political. There is no plot and there are no named characters. The cast of three men and three women are types loosely represent the age decade of the character: 20s, 30s and 50s. The stage is set in “The Long Run,” which is the first song and is reprised at the finale. The sentiments are familiar: “Twenty was a breeze;” “Thirty was a blast;” “Fifty’s pretty real.” These are snapshots of larger experience.
The younger women are played by Alix Paige and Liz Lark Brown while award-winning local favorite Elizabeth Dimon is the more mature character.
The men are Noah Zachary, Henry Gainza and John Herrera, a Tony-nominated Broadway veteran.
Mate finds humor in the serious subject of intervention without dismissing the very real problem. Likewise he fins physical farce in a young man’s ardent, oversexed approach to a female.
Sometimes it’s a simple as “You make my brain work right” or as ironic as “I Don’t Think of You” (It’s All Good).
The cleverness of Mate’s lyrics keeps the listener engaged while the interaction of the characters, all in fine voice, alleviates the need for a plot.
Mate’s music is similarly catchy, complex and clever and the four-piece onstage band of Paul Reekie (piano) Bob Bunin (guitar), Dave Wilkinson (bass) and Steve Salo (drums) smoothly accepts the challenge of the shifting styles, pitches and cadences.
No doubt you will have a favorite among the two dozen songs. I thought “Before I go” is a particularly poignant breakup song. “On My Wall” is pointed commentary on the superficiality of online “relationships.” If you’ve ever tried to write a song, you will relate to “If I Wrote a Song.” I find solace in the modest aspiration of “Something Like Okay.”
“The Longing” has been in development for three years. It is still a work in progress, but it is definitely something like OK.

Shows are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 2 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $30-$45. Call 561-450-6357 or go to