Layman's Lyrics

Party of 1 offers a very pleasant way to spend an evening. It's a good play to go to with a date, or to attend in hopes of finding one. The show is a sequence of cabaret songs dedicated to the joys and pains of singlehood, slightly reminiscent of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, though without the monologues; fizzier and more light-hearted than Sex and the City, but less weighted with ego and pretension.

Four appealing people spin through songs with topics ranging from the insecurities raised by meet-and-mingle functions to concerns about bad breath and the intense ambivalence you feel when someone with whom you're having a great relationship actually takes the next step and moves into your apartment. A woman laments that all the kindly, cultured, handsome men she meets are gay; a man realizes with horror that "My lawyer's younger than me." There's a straw-hatted buck and wing in honor of James Buchanan, America's single president; a wedding during which the priest makes off with the bride; and a wistful song about a lover who makes the singer smile. The prettiest melody occurs in the ironic "Quilts," sung by Tara Szabo and Megan Van De Hey, whose voices blend beautifully as they describe all the precious heirlooms they've been promised by their mothers -- just as soon as they take the trip down the aisle.

The fact that women feel the need to discuss and dissect relationships while their male partners usually don't is an ancient joke, but it's the basis for a very funny patter song here, sung with perfect rhythm and timing by the entire cast.

In addition to Szabo and Van De Hey, Party of 1 features Chris Bogart and Kevin Tobias; musical director Glen Dennis provides piano accompaniment. Though the four performers are all very different, their singing and performance styles are complementary. Bogart exudes warm confidence; he has a knowing eye and a rich voice. Tobias plays an everyday kind of guy, who sometimes seems put-upon and shlubby, sometimes confidently sexy. Szabo's radiant smile is delightful, and so is her pretty soprano; with her flipped-up-at-the-ends hair and rueful expressions, she also provides a refreshing element of goofiness.

Van De Hey has the evening's most absurdly and outrageously funny song. In a rumpety-thump rhythm reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan, she sings a saga of artificial insemination. And believe me, she makes the most of it. Hers is an all-over-the-place, big, bold performance, positively wriggling with life and energy. Although now and then her voice and her antics threaten to swamp both her fellow performers and the tiny space, she has the audience howling with laughter.

Party of 1 ran forever in the Bay Area, where writer-composer Morris Bobrow is famed for his clever lyrics and bright, listenable tunes. Good-natured and enjoyable, with just an edge of grown-up irony, the show deserves its popularity.

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Juliet Wittman is an investigative reporter and critic with a passion for theater, literature, social justice and food. She has reviewed theater for Westword for over a decade; for many years, she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post. She has won several journalism awards and published essays and short stories in literary magazines. Her novel, Stocker's Kitchen, can be obtained at select local bookstores and on Amazon.
Contact: Juliet Wittman