Curtain Call: If/Then; ALT Adventure Space
Feb. 11, 2023
We’ve all walked down memory lane wondering, at those pivotal movments of life, about the consequences if we’d made a different choice. If/Then explores that possibility in such a way that audience members are left to reflect on the crossroads of their own lives.
The Broadway play, with lyrics and book by Tony and Pulitzer-Prize winner Bryan Yorkey and Music by Tom Kitt, opened in March 2014 and ran for over four hundred performances. The Amarillo iteration was performed at ALT’s Adventure Space, February 9-12.
The plot is a minefield of antipodes: big city realities vs. the white picket fence; career and duty vs. family; autonomy vs. commitment; comfort zone security vs. vulnerability; change vs. status quo; certainty vs. complications. All of this plays out against the shifting social, personal, demographic and architectural landscape of Manhattan.
In a multi-layered plot a divorcee, about-to-turn-40 Elizabeth returns to NYC to begin anew. There, by chance, she meets two friends: Kate, who is a lesbian and calls her “Liz,” and onetime lover Lucas who now identifies as bisexual, espouses Progressive housing causes, and calls her “Beth.” There the plot line bifurcates under the two names with two paths forward.
But, consider the lyrics that bookend the musical. From the first number: “Once every day your life starts again. No one can say just how or just when.” Or, as the heroine sings, “If I’m flirting with 40, there’s no time to wait. And I can’t help but feel that I might be too late!”
Or, from the Finale: “you know that everything changes, and there no turning back!” What if? Then what?
In one narrative Elizabeth gets married, becomes a mother, then becomes a war widow. In the other, she gets pregnant by Lucas, has an abortion, then possibly espies Mr. Right at the end. The audience can’t be faulted for getting confused. The plot lines, each with their own subplots, intertwine but clarify at the end.
Annika Spaulding, whose kaleidoscopic talents have spanned roles from comedic (Young Frankenstein) to LGBTQ serious (Fun Home), brought all of her dramatic attributes to bear portraying the complex Elizabeth. Kissey Cummings is believable as gay super-teacher Kate, who juggles mending hearts while seeking her own true love. Brett Spaulding, Annika’s real-life hubby, gets to play Josh, who becomes Elizabeth’s stage spouse until killed while on deployment. Joshua Gibson-Roark is credible as Lucas, who weaves in and out of the action like the warp to Beth’s weft.
The show is complex in the extreme, with twenty-two singing numbers and intense dialogue. The success of the production resulted from the quality of the actors, as well as the deft direction of Jo Smith, who allowed allowed the talents of the principals to achieve critical mass. A shout-out also goes to Music Director/Conductor Jennifer Akins, who has become ALT’s secret weapon in mounting any musical production. The ensemble sang with confidence and clarity.
Yorkey’s work called to my mind an OU coed who came home one weekend to her small Oklahoma town in Sept, 1944, and who was guilted by a friend to go on a blind date with an officer from Altus Army Air Corps Base. He proposed on the first date; she accepted on the third and my parents were married 43 years!
The play is very relatable. Audience members can’t help but review those pivotal watershed moments that informed their course of their own lives, and leave the theatre asking themselves, “If……….Then?
Amarillo is extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to see edgy, adult-level Broadway plays performed by such quality local talent. We urge our Thespians to keep “breaking a leg,” and to all let’s
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