"The Thing about Men,” now playing through Saturday, December 19, at the Off-Broadstreet Theater, has been characterized as a “musical comedy affair.” The show uses scaled-down means (five singers and a piano) to tell a story that might almost be considered serious: Tom, played by Todd Reichart, is an advertising executive with a comfortable income. He dresses well, lives in a large house, and drives a Porsche. He discovers that his wife, Lucy, played by Alison Quairoli, is having an affair. Although Tom has had his own affairs in the past, he apparently sees no parallels. Determined to find Sebastian, his wife’s lover, he moves out of the house. He is successful in his quest and rents a room in Sebastian’s loft.
A middle-aged hippie, Sebastian, played by Barry Abramowitz, is a painter who tries to make ends meet by working at Starbucks. He rarely sells his paintings — although he produces very few, the walls of his apartment are covered with them, all of them actually the work of Justin Provenzano, whom Off-Broadstreet regulars may recognize as one of the dessert helpers — and he often has to scrounge for his rent. Tom and the audience know that Sebastian is Lucy’s lover, but since Tom had not told Sebastian his real name, Sebastian has no idea that Tom is Lucy’s husband. Such an arrangement of course leads to all kinds of opportunities for misunderstandings, which are exploited to the utmost.
To confuse matters even more, Tom grows to like Sebastian, and the two men become good friends. Eventually Sebastian decides to give up skirt chasing and propose to Lucy. Tom persuades Sebastian that to do that, he’ll need an income, and to get an income he’ll have to cut his hair and replace his hippie outfit with a suit. Sebastian ends up as an art director at the advertising agency where Tom works, and we’ll keep the end a secret.
There may only be five voices in “The Thing about Men,” but Tom Stevenson and Pam Jorgenson, the two actors who are not playing the leads, between them take on 24 parts. These characters range from teenagers to priests, bums to bartenders, country singers to sushi deliverers. Stevenson’s and Jorgenson’s ability to suddenly reappear on stage looking totally unlike the characters who just left, costumes and all, is breathtaking. The costumes are once again the work of Ann Raymond, and as Off-Broadstreet’s audiences have come to expect, the costumes do their bit in moving the story along.
The three main characters are all adept at handling their roles, which with the authors’ “the most important thing is to have a hit” attitude, can’t always be easy. All three manage to convince the audience that whatever happens, they are essentially nice people and will eventually work out a solution.
In what seems like a reversal of the usual pattern, Joe DiPietro’s book for “The Thing about Men” is based on the screenplay for a movie. That movie, “Men,” by Doris Dorrie, was a hit in Germany but only played in art houses in the United States. The show had a successful run Off Broadway six years ago. “The Thing about Men” is described as a “rare find — a book musical specifically written for a small cast.” There is more singing than spoken dialogue in “The Thing about Men,” and, as previously mentioned, the piano, played here by F. Thomas Simpson, is the only accompaniment. The internal rhymes in the lyrics are often clever (“Thomas, I promise”; “You see, Lucy”), but people may find they are hearing them too often.
The cast, all Off-Broadstreet veterans, showed more signs of musical insecurity opening-night than Off-Broadstreet audiences are used to. Apparently illness during the rehearsal period had slowed preparation, but if past experience is any guide, the cast will certainly be in complete control for the remainder of the run.
The Thing About Men, Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell. Through Saturday, December 19. Romantic musical comedy based on Doris Dorrie’s screenplay features Todd Reichart, Allison Quairoli, Barry Abramowitz, Tom Stevenson, and Pam Jorgensen. The theater opens for dessert one hour before curtain. $27.50 to $29.50. 609-466-2766 or www.off-broadstreet.com.