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Thursday, 23 October 2014 21:21

Off-Broadway Review: LENNON: THROUGH A GLASS ONION

Written by
Stewart D'Arrietta & John R. Waters (r) Stewart D'Arrietta & John R. Waters (r) Photo: Joan Marcus

In the pantheon of 20th century music John Lennon ranks in the highest echelons. An artistic martyr, he is near unanimously appreciated as a figurehead of the hippy era with his life and death mythologized to the point of legend. In Lennon: Through A Glass Onion at The Union Square Theatre, John R. Waters and accompanist Stewart D'Arrietta give a minimalist documentization of Lennon's life and work. Sadly though, this piece exhumes neither the personal humanity or sense of artistic connection that rendered him an icon and which retains him in the artistic psyche still today.

Alternating between Lennon's songs and words, Waters spans the entirety of Lennon's life from growing up in Liverpool to his assassination in New York's Upper West Side. During the text portions Waters intones an accurate depiction of Lennon's vocal patters but delivers them with the theatrical presence of an audiobook. Nothing about the Lennon impersonation reads as living and instead seems to be drowned with apathetic and distanced recollection. The passing moments of humor, written with legitimate light self-depreciation, are consistently undercut in delivery by Waters' self-satisfied coolness. The performance's prose portions also do little biographically. With a decisive lack of artistic flavor these discussions failed to flesh out the historiographical or emotional context of Lennon's life journey.

The ambitious set list of over thirty songs are shelved between these points of prose and are exceptionally well accompanied by Stewart D'Arrietta. The flaw in the musical program is inherent within the performer's constricting genre based style. With someone of such variation as Lennon, the rough yelping blues of Waters balances with only a handful of the evening's extensive repertory. Highlights, which include "Strawberry Fields," and "Come Together," are exceptions, and not the rule.

The flaws music and text could have been easily been forgiven if the work breathed with a sense of warm reverence. The power of the work is not vocal talent but in the player's passion for the subject at hand. Perhaps overdeveloped over the past 22 years and hardened into mechanics, the work has none of the immediate reverence of an artist to artist relationship. Waters also does little to refocus Lennon's repertory for renewed appreciation. Regardless of musicality "...Through A Glass Onion" necessitates a unique perspective. No such perspective, whether emotional or historical, prevailed. In design, the chasm of personality is echoed by the minimalist stage and is bathed in monolithic lighting by designer Anthony Barrett. While fans might be able to glean moments of poignancy from this piece, for those whose adorations of Lennon are less than religious, the performance will land with strangling apathy.

Additional Info

  • Theatre: Union Square Theatre
  • Theatre Address: 100 E. 17th Street New York, NY
  • Show Style: Musical
  • Opening Night: October 15, 2014
  • Closing: Open Ended
Last modified on Thursday, 23 October 2014 22:17