Davy Rothbart was having a weird day – his boss fired him; a mugger took his wallet and shoes; he couldn’t get his car to start – when he found a slip of paper that changed his life….and the world.
That anyway is what happens in “Weird Day,” the opening number of “Found,” the lively and tuneful, if not entirely successful musical based on Rothbart’s sudden revelation more than a decade ago. He realized he could publish discarded notes, memos, letters, lists, postcards, posters, classified ads, showing the treasure in other people’s trash. This led him to found Found magazine — which solicits such memorabilia from the public, giving hoarders nationwide a reason to feel better about themselves.
That first note, mistakenly put on his windshield, said:
Mario, I fucking hate you. You said you had to work–
–then why’s your car here at her place?
You’re a fucking liar I hate you I fucking hate you. Amber
PS Page me later
The note itself and dozens upon dozens to follow in the show are projected onto the stage of the Atlantic Theater, and simultaneously recited or sung by a young, appealing and greatly talented cast of 10, to a rocking score by Eli Bohn.
Now, as somebody who in elementary school collected just such meaningful detritus and made my bedroom wall into one huge collage (an amateur and artless version of the massive collage that set designer David Korins has created out of Found memorabilia), I understand the appeal of such glimpses into other people’s lives. Among the more memorable in “Found”:
“I hit the back of your car. People are watching so I had to leave a note…I’m not paying for shit!”
“Ever cut your skin for fun? Sell your ass? Sleep on the street? Do you like pain? Take heroin? If so, let’s start a band.”
“Dear Dad, I have ran off to see the world. Love Nick.”
“If you want the key back, bring the urn back. No questions asked.”
Ok, just one more:
“We all need an enemy to define who we are. Thank you for being mine. I hate you very much.”
I find these irresistible, and so I imagine did the “Found” creative team – songwriter Eli Bolin, book writers Hunter Bell ([title of show]) and Lee Overtree, who is also the director, as well as the artistic director of Story Pirates, the fabulous children-centered theater that is listed as the show’s collaborator. The question they faced was how to turn these random jottings into a musical.
They did this in several ways, much of it impressive. Many of the found notes are delivered as quick-hit comments upstage relevant to the downstage action: When two of the characters kiss, for example, we see and hear another actor reciting a note “How to kiss: Keep my mouth clean. “ etc.
The team fashioned a goodly number into songs. Some of these are touching ballads. Some are fanciful and fun, such as “Great Lakes Bears” (based on a poster looking for “bears” – in the gay vernacular – “furry and friendly”), with the cast dressed in lumberjack outfits, and “Cats Are Cats,” with the cast in cute cat costumes acting out a schoolchild’s scribbled essay that begins “Lions are cats tigers too cats are cats they are usually orange.” E.E. Cummings this is not, and doesn’t have to be.
But the team was apparently not satisfied to make “Found The Musical” into a clever 90-minute revue. They wanted to give it a shape, a story. And that is what doesn’t work.
“Found” is a two-act, two-hour-plus story musical – with 28 songs! – that grafts together the two hoariest plots in show business – the rise and fall of an overly ambitious would-be star, and a love triangle.
The story focuses on Davy (Nick Blaemire) and his founding of Found, with the help of his roommate and best friend since childhood Mikey D. (Daniel Everidge, who was so spectacular as the overgrown autistic child in Falling), and his other roommate and apparent love interest Denise (Barrett Wilbert Weed.) Then Kate (Betsy Morgan) enters into the picture; they meet cute: She attends a party for Found magazine, and hears a note she herself wrote as a child. Kate is a would-be television producer, and she tempts Davy both into a relationship, and into turning Found into a television show, which compromises the integrity of the original vision…or something. We are suddenly ambushed with scenes of arguments with TV studio executives.
If telling the story of the ups and downs in the founding of Found seemed like a natural choice, the cliched way it is done is no better a frame for these paper treasures than my wall was – though “Found” is sure to be much better appreciated; my parents insisted I take down and throw out my collection. Too bad Found wasn’t around then.
Click on any photograph to see it enlarged.
Atlantic Theater Company
Written by Hunter Bell and Lee Overtree based on the Found books and magazines by Davy Rothbart. Music and original lyrics by Eli Bohn
Directed by Lee Overtree
Choreography by Monica Bill Barnes. Scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Theresa Squire, lighting design by Justin Townsend, sound design by Ken Travis, projection design by Darrel Maloney
Cast: Christina Anthony, Nick Blaemire, Andrew Call, Daniel Everidge, Orville Mendoza, Betsy Morgan, Molly Pope, Danny Pudi, Sandy Rustin and Barrett Wilbert Weed.
Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, including one 10 minute intermission
Tickets: $75-$80. Premium: $95. Lottery: Free (if you win, you have to bring a found note.)
Found is set to run through November 9th.