"F#@King Up Everything" is no screw up

The rehearsal space in Wooly Mammoth Theatre doesn’t look like much when the audience first walks in. But the utter simplicity, and grunginess, of “F#@king Up Everything” is manifested in the dingy space turned Brooklyn nightclub. And the crowd goes wild.

But what could have turned into an exposition of the indie-rock scene of New York City becomes a classic love story between more than a few angsty college grads looking for soulmates and one-night-stands. It’s a construct everyone has seen before, and it even has echoes to the recent Broadway sensation, “Rock of Ages.” But as opposed to its prototype, “F#@king Up Everything” evenly balances the fine line between a comedy and a rock concert and does them both in a way that is extremely energizing and invigoration. The audience leaves disappointed only in the sad fact that the show lasts just an hour and a half.

“F#@king Up Everything” ran from July 15 to Aug. 14 at Wooly Mammoth Theatre in Gallery Place.

In this regard, the self-described “Rock Musical Comedy with Heart” accurately highlights the show’s strengths. Rock music courtesy of David Eric Davis energizes the audience, and it would not be surprising if we saw Davis’s name on the next “Rent.” Davis, along with Sam Forman, does a great job of integrating straight scenes, which simply piles on laugh after laugh, with the musical numbers. Transitions between them are flawless thanks to the obviously hard work of the actors and director Jay D. Brock.

Though the show has its unsurprisingly raunchy moments, most of the humor comes instead from the honesty of the characters’ quirks, which anyone in the audience could easily relate to at any one time.

The most honest performance comes from Lee August Praley, who plays the “painfully awkward” Christian Mohammed Schwartzelberg, a Jewish puppeteer who prefers to talk to his puppets rather than go to therapy. It was probably a good choice on his part because watching Praley argue with his own hands was undeniably funny.

Though it’s easier to understand some of the humor if the audience knows who Noam Chomsky and Rick Allen are, Praley does an excellent job anyway of differentiating his alter egos so we can see how delightfully confused, yet logical, the young romantic’s mind works as he quests to win the heart of Julianna, brought to life by the talented Crystal Mosser. Marred only by a few clichéd or overacted moments, Praley makes us all root for the neurotic man-boy, even when he is, well, insert title of show here.

The audience also becomes enraptured with the blossoming of Ivy, portrayed flawlessly by Dani Stroller, as she turns from Jake’s shy, nerdy “bestie” into a young, undeniably sexier woman. As Stroller flawlessly belts through “If You Were Mine,” the audience has no doubt that she’ll get what she wants: namely, Jake, played by John Fritz. But an unfortunate lack of connection between the two actors, and a shortage of text and time, mars their tango that parallels that of Christian and Julianna.

Gracing the stage in his professional debut was Fritz, a friend of this reporter and a recent AU Musical Theater graduate. It’s clear that Fritz is made to play the obnoxious, indie-rock, sex-driven antagonist, Jake. Though we aren’t necessarily on his side, we empathize with him and cheer for his final happily-ever-after. But first, he opens the show like he would any rock concert, immediately sending energy sky-high with fast-paced rock and pure sex drive.

At first look, any monkey with a typewriter could create the caricatures. But all of them become beautifully complex as the show progresses. They become real people. So when the cast is on stage, flawlessly pounding out chord after chord of self-respect and exuberance in the final number, the audience knows for a fact: They may have spent most of the show “F#@king Up Everything,” but we’ll indubitably respect their last wish: “Take Me As I Am.”

zcohen@theeagleonline.com

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