Entertainment :: Theatre

Hostage Song

by Ellen Wernecke
Contributor
Monday Apr 21, 2008
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Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen in "Hostage Song."
Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen in "Hostage Song."  

The newest thing in the indie-rock musical field sounds... well, somewhat like the last new thing. Like "Spring Awakening," Hostage Song takes characters who without a suspension of disbelief would not be singing and provides them with a dark rock soundtrack and microphones that seem to appear and disappear between tunes. There are moments of weird hilarity sandwiched in amongst the dark, very dark material. And a human connection manages to briefly bridge the horrors awaiting the pair who finds itself held as captives to an unclear cause.

A show about terrorism with singing may belong in the textbook definition for "edgy Off-Off-Broadway production," but "Hostage Song" sneaks up on the audience who have no doubt come in braced for nasty acts of violence perpetrated in dance. But in between getting its bearings from the opening number, sung by the backing band in ski caps (appropriately dour, with tight rhythms) and trying to divine the fates of our victims, who spend the entire show blindfolded and bound, director Oliver Butler and writers Clay McLeod Chapman and Kyle Jarrow conduct us to a dark place that we stay in long after the end of the show.

Journalist Jennifer (Hanna Cheek) is fairly sure she is being held by the group she once reported on; when she hears her dad on CNN she can only cringe like a teenager, crying out "Now they’re going to kill me on PRINCIPLE!" Her cellmate, a contractor named Jim (Paul Thureen) lends his voice to the strongest song in the show, a lament in three-quarter time he sings to his faraway wife and the next man she will love, pleading "let him be good to you." (Unlike "Spring Awakening," no list of songs is provided in the program for "Hostage Song" so they can only be singled out by description.) While the conclusion of "Hostage Song" leaves little hope for the humans who have had a microphone shoved into their tied hands, it is a beacon for the post-"Spring Awakening" wave of new musical writing.

Through April 26 at the Kraine Theatre, 85 E. 4th Street
Tickets $18, 212-868-4444
For more information, visit hostagesong.com

Ellen Wernecke’s work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and The Onion A.V. Club, and she comments on books regularly for WEBR’s "Talk of the Town with Parker Sunshine." A Wisconsin native, she now lives in New York City.

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