All indicators suggest that Allegra Lingo has another hit on her hands: admirable numbers, glowing response. I’ve been a fan of her for years: I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every one of her previous shows, and found each one to be progressively stronger than the last. Which is why I’m a little pained to admit that this is the first one that really didn’t work for me.
I’ve been watching Allegra experiment with musical storytelling in various shows with the Rockstar Storytellers over the course of the past year, with varying results: some very successful, some less so. Here’s the thing: the strength of Allegra’s writing has always been her ability to find grand, sweeping revelations in simple observations. This is incredibly effective when it’s understated. When those revelations have grand, sweeping music underscoring them, I find that they become almost comically overwrought. Moreover, this seems to influence her performance, as well; she’s always had an appealing, laid-back, folksy style, but this is the first time that that persona has felt affected to me. So, in that respect, I have to regard the experiment as one that didn’t really work for me.
The writing fares much better, and reveals the strength of her craftsmanship again: a layered story of writer’s block, alternating with her re-invention of classical myth, containing a variety of elements that are elegantly tied together. (Although I’ll confess that I’m unconvinced by her tale of Icarus Triumphant: it seems to me that those who refuse to acknowledge their limitations are the ones most severely crippled by them. The truly mad dreamers, those who have departed from reality to the point that they fling themselves off of cliffs seeking to fly, have little to offer us. I’m also fascinated with the parallel between the act of divine creation and the act of artistic creation — Tolkien termed this subcreation — but I’m also not unaware that it can carry about it the stench of hubris if not closely examined.)
So this ended up being a show full of things I should love — proficient storytelling, ancient myth, and writerly angst — but I found myself stumbling over far too many barriers to reach the story itself. In any case, I’m thrilled that she’s found an audience, and a little sorry that I can’t be part of it this time around.