Part of Porchlight Theatre’s ambitious Finn Fest at the Theatre Building, “A New Brain” dramatizes writer/composer William Finn’s brush with death shortly after receiving the Tony Award for “Falsettos” in 1992. On paper, the plot of “A New Brain” is relatively slight: Finn’s stand-in, writer/composer Gordon Schwinn, suffers a brain seizure, faces the possibility of death, and recovers. But director L. Walter Stearns, music director James Collins, and choreographer Kevin Bellie have realized to the fullest extent the humane vision within Finn’s alternately harrowing and hilarious piece. Finn’s aim, like Gordon’s, is to tell stories through his songs, and the rich chromatic score does just that, illuminating by turns the stoic heroism of Gordon’s mother Mimi, the cool reserve of his lover Roger, and even the inner life of the “nice nurse” Richard (who’s “poor, unsuccessful, and fat”). Stephen Rader is riveting as Gordon: from his hospital gurney, he commands attention and sympathy even when Gordon’s self-pity obscures his charm. The cast as a whole brings a fiery verve to Finn’s web of relationships. Finn, like Sondheim, has reinvented the musical form for the way we live now: Porchlight’s festival is an apt tribute to his remarkable voice. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.