When Gertrude Stein began writing plays, she realized, “So naturally what I wanted to do in my play was what everybody did not always know nor always tell.” The urge to discover the essential by resolutely following her idiosyncratic inclinations pretty well defines the peculiar genius of Stein. Frank Galati and Stephen Flaherty labor under no such restrictions in their new musical “of Gertrude Stein,” currently at the MCA in partnership with About Face Theatre. From the initial scene, it’s apparent that the creators of “Ragtime” and “Seussical” have no qualms about centering their play on what everyone always knows and always tells. We begin with the older Stein (Cindy Gold) looking back on her younger self (Christine Mild), see her initial encounter with Alice B. Toklas (Jenny Powers), and close at her deathbed. Along the way, the project becomes occasionally more adventurous. The inventively staged “Lyrical Opera Made By Two, To Be Sung,” an opera of Stein’s, conveys briefly in its second scene the oceanic play of meaning and nonsense which undergirds Stein’s writing. For a moment, “Loving Repeating” achieves the suspension of time for which Stein aimed. But then Flaherty’s frequently hackneyed score breaks in with a phony cathouse blues, and we’re back in the general mode of the piece: a musical about Gertrude Stein for people who don’t like Gertrude Stein. When you think about how rarely Stein’s own, brilliantly original theatre pieces get staged, the lost opportunity seems almost criminal. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.