At its best, William Finn’s revue of songs about dying takes on the quality of the New York School poetry of Frank O’Hara or James Schuyler: a lovingly detailed evocation of artistic and gay life in New York. Songs like “Peggy Hewitt and Mysty De Giorno,” “Mark’s All-Male Thanksgiving” or “The Ballad of Jack Eric Williams (and Other Three-Named Composers)” manifest Finn’s deep affection for the people he depicts. His sharply observed, bitingly funny and poignant portraits bring them, for a few minutes, back to life. But Finn gives his late associate Bolek Greczynski the best critical take on the project of “Elegies”: Bolek would have called it “bourgeois shit.” And when Finn strays from documenting the world he knows best, particularly in the closing scene dramatizing the events of 9/11, his lyrical imagination goes mushy, even if the score remains lush. Porchlight’s performers (“Elegies” is part of their Finn Fest) are enormously gifted, and perform Finn’s songs with great spirit and humor. When not singing, though, their jokey interplay comes off as contrived and distracting, only underlining the show’s potential for a gooey sentimentality. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.