Silver Spoon takes the cake

Worse and worser
By ED SIEGEL  |  May 31, 2011

spoon main
LOOK BACK IN AGITA The politics are as confused as the romance in this ’60s-based musical. 

Could Silver Spoon, a musical celebration of '60s politics, be the worst piece of theater I've seen?

Well, there was Prymate, a Broadway play that starred a black man as an ape. And the Philip Glass piece at the A.R.T. where a young boy walked up and down the Loeb aisles singing "Mama killed me, Papa ate me."

So, Silver Spoon, what do you got that can compete against that?

Well, there's the heroine who commutes between co-editing a left-wing alternative newspaper and working for a fascistic brokerage house. That's why she ends up singing an anthem about her days in Selma while wearing white gloves and patent-leather shoes.

Her boyfriend organizes farm workers while living with his mother in Brooklyn. He apparently went to the university of dropped g's where he majored in silly accents. His Commie mother thinks that marriage, and just about everything else, is too bourgeois for words (or song), but rails against "shiksas" like the most conservative of Jewish mothers.

And there's one more member of this merry quartet — an ultrawasp banker looked up to by his lefty granddaughter even though his politics make Richard Nixon look like George McGovern. Hell, Serbian war criminals have more nuance to their politics. Though that doesn't stop him from falling in love with Commie Mom.

The Nora Theatre Company has the questionable honor of staging the world premiere (at Central Square Theater through June 19) with a book by Amy Merrill and music and lyrics by Si Kahn. Merrill is a former writer at The Old Mole, which I remember as a literate outlet, but then a lot of things I liked about the '60s haven't held up. Kahn has been a community, labor, and civil-rights organizer as well as a musician, though nobody is going to confuse Si Kahn and Sammy Cahn. As Commie Mom might say, more generic tunes and lyrics you have not heard in a theater, bubbalah. And the script isn't any better:

"You lied to me."

"Dan, I didn't lie to you."

"You obfuscated."

We know we're in trouble when Trust-Fund Lefty starts singing about her multiple orgasms and the great sex she's just had with Momma's Boy Guevara only to pull the covers back to reveal she has two layers of underwear on. He doesn't believe in taking his underwear off, either. He tells her there's no chance that Commie Mom will walk in. Bet you can't guess what happens. She smokes out Trust-Fund Lefty immediately and serenades her with, "I work my fingers to the bone to sew the silk that covers you."

Aside from the play itself, the production is only intermittently awful and can even boast a fine quartet and an excellent set by Eric Levenson featuring period posters imaginatively displayed over the floor and the drawings of high-rises. Kara Manson as Trust-Fund Lefty and Peter Edmund Haydu as her beloved grandfather, Freddy Milosevic, barely keep their heads above the cartoon writing. It doesn't help that given Haydu's relatively youthful appearance, grandpa must have spawned when he was 15. Rena Baskin and Edward T. Joy as Commie Mom and progeny get completely submerged by their characters' ridiculousness. Director Daniel Gidron seems equally flummoxed.

And none of this gets to the worst aspect of Silver Spoon, which is that it's even lousy agitprop. The sloppy script gives credence to the right-wing theorem that left-wingers, particularly the '60s variety, were hypocrites and cowards, not to mention dumbbells. The Tea Party could use Silver Spoon as a recruiting tool. Even if the boycott were still going on, I'd have to order a case of Gallo just to get the taste of this out of my mouth.

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