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Core Values 

Just across the street from the city's most opulent big-show venue, the Saenger, sits a brash new competitor called The Core. The Core is also located in a movie theater of faded glory -- the State Palace. There is not likely to be much crossover in audiences, however.

I recently headed up to The Core to see The Singer, an original drama with music by Jeri Cain Rossi, who created a phantasmagorical, allegorical, mythological, scatological, sociological and often incomprehensible threnody for lost youth called Last Call for Love and Happiness at the Shim Sham Club two years ago.

I wended my way through the crowd milling about on Canal Street and climbed a long, narrow, disreputable flight of marble steps that look they might lead to the set for a '40s detective agency. Having purchased my ticket, I stepped into a dim room with table seating and a bar -- decorated with day-glow murals of an imaginary Gotham of squalid glamour: a hip, improvised little cabaret that seemed the natural habitat for the young bohemian set I sometimes think of as "the children of the night."

In one corner of the room, there was a large screen, for the play alternated between live action and video footage (some of it intriguing and dreamlike) that amplified the story in various ways.

The Singer tells the story of Chance Tyler, a rock star who married his high school sweetheart, Sorrel. One night, lost in the narcissistic haze of celebrity, drugs and drink, Chance picks up a starlet. Perhaps he brings her home for group sex (this depends on how you take the video segments). Then there is a car wreck, in which he is severely injured and the starlet dies.

When he gets out of the hospital, Chance flees to Mexico, where he runs into Malachi, a serious-minded, ingenuous philosophy student. He gives his wedding ring to Malachi, who returns it to the embittered but lovelorn Sorrel -- now working as a singer in a seedy New York nightclub. Meanwhile, a drunken Chance, surrounded by an apparition of fan dancers, stumbles into the Mexican night and drops dead beside a railroad track.

The staging (by playwright Rossi) was remarkably ambitious, at times. The car wreck, for instance, was presented in a tableaux replete with a twisted auto, its headlights aglow, a horrified crowd of groupies behind a barrier, a cop, a team of frantic medics and their gurney, smoke -- the whole nine yards -- all taking place in front of a symbolic sky of stars. This stunning, if somewhat irrelevant, spectacle was emblematic of the flashes of brilliance and the nagging lack of focus that characterized the show.

On the plus side was Raphaelle (as Sorrel), in disillusioned, sultry mode -- singing a torch song and then trading monologues with Christian Middleton (as Malachi) about their attraction to the Mephistophelian Chance. Middleton admirably held his own in this set-to, given a character that was a little hard to fathom: a timid, innocent tea-totaler sort of guy who nonetheless treks solo through Mexico visiting Mayan ruins to soak up the magic like a New Age guru.

After the intermission, the curtain went up on "a dive bar in San Miguel de Allende." Here we witnessed the events, previously narrated by Malachi. And while the scene attested to Malachi's veracity, it added little else to the story -- with the exception of the ontological enigma posed by the lithe, undulant houris with their scarlet ostrich plumes, who escorted Chance to his last, great, endless rave in the sky.

Erik Corveaux was Chance, John Hammons was (or was not) Chance's father, Mr. Silky Voice. Stacey Gamble did the videos. Max Bernardi did the set. The original music was by Rossi, Eric Laws and Erik Corveaux.

If the sleaze in The Singer is tinged with romance, the sleaze in Glengarry Glen Ross is undiluted by sentiment -- scraped off the lino of unregenerate greed. Why the sordid struggle for existence in the lower regions of the white-collar jungle should hold us spellbound is a mystery. But, in David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, it does. In Phillip Karnell's engrossing production at UNO, Jim Winter, Scott Theriot, C. Caine Lee, Shane Stewart, Michael Santos, R. Stephen Reinike and Leonard Zanders, because of their youth, seemed not as utterly lost and irredeemable as their characters are meant to be. But they created a believable, fascinating and repellent world.

click to enlarge Eric Corveaux, Raphaelle, and Christian Middleton did justice to Jeri Cain Rossi's latest work, The Singer, recently at The Core.
  • Eric Corveaux, Raphaelle, and Christian Middleton did justice to Jeri Cain Rossi's latest work, The Singer, recently at The Core.


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