A show called Bucolic was presented this month by Maul Face LLC in Judson Memorial Church in Washington Square. The promotion calls it a “immersive dark comedic musical”, and the website calls it a “dark comedy musical”. It’s not a musical. It’s a musical review with six performers or, as the website also calls it, “a good-natured stand-up act.”
At opening a priest enters through the audience and tells us “Sit. down! Quiet down! Here it is - your senior year!” We are, for the moment, in a Catholic high school in a small Nebraska town. And I suppose that by the standards of a small Nebraska town, the show’s pretty good.
The prime mover, who created and composed the show, is Lauren Maul. She addresses us with an amiable, relaxed stage presence. She also sings and plays the piano for the other singers. The premise is that her unnamed home town in Nebraska was rife with murders, and the show has a mild, delightful, macabre humor as she and her cast relate through song and narration the stories of small town crime.
Some of the songs are clever. The priest, addressing his senior class, sings “Some of you will die - Well, all of you will die - But some of you will die this year.” And there’s precisely one touching lyric, when an actress sings of a grieving woman: “I wonder what she does with her days.” But most of the songs sound alike, with short, flippant, repetitive lines.
In the show’s most creative moment, we see some lovely shadow puppets of wolves. In another nice moment, Ms. Maul points out that The Church doesn’t believe in psychics, but it does believe in prophets - after all, psychics are women and prophets are men.
I’d like to be generous to this likable troupe, but the fact is that between the lot of them they’ve never had a voice lesson. And for all their amiability, they lack stage authority. What’s more, Ms. Maul should know better than to give the audience even small glasses of Scotch. It’s a nice idea, but some people are in recovery.
I’d like to see what Ms. Maul produced in a few years.