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Author Topic: Boston Globe "Ghost Bothers" Review  (Read 4767 times)
walktall2010
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« on: November 24, 2014, 12:43:27 am »

Mellencamp, King lost in shadows of ‘Darkland County’
By Jeremy D. Goodwin
GLOBE CORRESPONDENT 
NOVEMBER 24, 2014

The fatally muddled musical “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” was spawned from the unlikely artistic pairing of jeans-rocker John Mellencamp and horror maestro Stephen King, but it’s less a Southern-gothic tragedy than a Frankenstein’s monster of lumpy plot devices and self-referential awkwardness.

Chorus figure the Zydeco Cowboy provides real-time analysis for the audience in place of a clear narrative. (For the touring show’s one-nighter at the Citi Emerson Colonial Theatre on Friday, Jesse Lenat dialed up his forced-folksiness for lines like “They have the look of those who finally saw the world for the house of cards that it is,” which he’s compelled to deliver with oracular solemnity.) But one character existing outside the story and addressing the audience is not enough, so King tosses in The Shape (Jake La Botz), a satanic spirit whose bawdy mugging makes him the most charismatic thing in sight.

The time-shifting story is something about two sets of brothers, 40 years apart, whose compulsive bickering is intended to be tragic but is really just annoying. Given King’s pedigree, it’s a surprise the story is the weakest thing here. But Mellencamp at least lives up to his billing, delivering a strong set of bluesy, smoky country-rock played by an onstage quartet. (Musical director T Bone Burnett helps build a swampy ambience with scratchy, vintage recordings of zydeco bands heard intermittently.)

“Tear This Cabin Down” is a revved-up stomper sung memorably by Eric Moore with invigorating support from the full company. There’s a muscular swing to “Brotherly Love,” and “Home Again” is one of several songs here whose rousing choruses stir up the blood but fail to connect with the action. These songs could live perfectly well on their own, and are likely more satisfying when you can just soak them in without noticing they seem to have nothing to do with the musical you’re watching.

La Botz stands out with “Lounging Around in Heaven,” a solo number he performs on acoustic guitar. But when he’s called on to undercut the show’s biggest moments with one-liners, it betrays a lack of confidence in the material.

The dueling sets of dueling brothers engender little sympathy, and Billy Burke (known from the “Twilight” film franchise) plays the long-suffering patriarch Joe McCandless as a colorless sad sack. King presents an interesting character in Monique (a hamming-it-up Gina Gershon), the Fading Southern Beauty™ who quotes “King Lear” and seems to favor her brawny, boorish son (over his bookish brother), but really just recognizes his deeper vulnerability.

There’s references to William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, and Anton Chekhov which seem intended to confer gravitas by association, plus (I kid you not) some dust kicked up about Shakespeare. But all the creaky mechanics fail to distract from the lack of dramatic interest.

“Darkland County” has yet to receive a New York production, and seems destined to haunt the theaters of America on hit-and-run tours, raking in the cash on the strength of its well-loved creators’ names. Hey, scarier things have happened.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2014/11/24/mellencamp-king-lost-shadows-darkland-county/1OmplrZbi2CQ1ahdu86taJ/story.html
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Mellenfan71
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« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2014, 12:14:30 pm »

Quote
But all the creaky mechanics fail to distract from the lack of dramatic interest.

“Darkland County” has yet to receive a New York production, and seems destined to haunt the theaters of America on hit-and-run tours, raking in the cash on the strength of its well-loved creators’ names. Hey, scarier things have happened.

yikes
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