In “Missed Connections,” a lively 75-minute revue that turns Craigslist ads into 25 songs, one of the six attractive and musically gifted cast members sings about a dead moose. He offers it to anybody for free who is willing to take it off his property. At the same time, another member of the cast sings about his need for a dead deer – in order to pretend to his wife that he was indeed out hunting, rather than what he was really doing, spending time with his mistress. The two men sing what amounts to a duet, meeting face to face. At the end of the song, presumably full of mutual gratitude, they lean towards one another as if about to kiss, then at the last minute switch up into a manly handshake.
If we assume (as we are promised) that these were two real ads on Craigslist, it seems unlikely that any actual connection between the two posters occurred. The man with the dead moose, he tells us in the song, lives in Alaska; the man who wanted a dead deer lives in Massachusetts. Even FedEx isn’t THAT accommodating.
But more to the point, there is something disagreeable about the little gay joke that ends the song, not because it’s offensive (although some might find it so, especially in a theater on Christopher Street) but because it’s one of many signals in “Missed Connections” that we normal people in the audience at the New Ohio Theater are here to laugh at the oddballs who use Craigslist. Now, granted, it’s hard to avoid seeing something odd about, say, the man who advertised for someone to come to his empty house while he was away, put on a one-piece bathing suit and sit in his bathtub full of cooked noodles. But it was odder to me that the only explicit reference to gay people that I caught in the show was a song about a man who advertises for another man to sip coffee together and hug:
“I’m not gay
Or anything like that.
Just enjoy a cup of java with another guy
In our underwear
Kind of male bonding, sipping thing.”
This mocking song is, again, the only explicit mention of gay connection in a show about a website that for almost two decades has helped make people who felt like misfits feel less alone – including young gay people in the hinterland.
So, yes, the half dozen performers, all of whom also play musical instruments, are talented; the songs that writers Veda Hille, Bill Richardson and Amiel Gladstone put together are tuneful. There are many songs that theatergoers in the right frame of mind will surely find amusing.
And yes, there are some poignant moments too — about people who saw each other in the street or on the subway, for example, and are writing in hopes of redoing the missed connection. But Weird Al Yankovich wrote about all this (much more briefly) in his song “Craigslist” in 2009 — the same year that the first version of “Missed Connections” (with a different title) began in Canada. I won’t say that Twitter, Facebook, Snapshot and Grindr have made a musical about Craigslist outdated. I’ll only say that “Missed Connections” struck me as entertaining without being insightful; clever without being particularly funny. “Missed Connections” seems to miss the point of Craigslist, or at least what’s most interesting about it.
at New Ohio Theater
Composed by Veda Hille, written by Hille, Amiel Gladstone and Bill Richardson
Directed by Phillip George
Choreographed by Amy Garner Hall
Set design by Josh Iocovelli
Lighting designed by Solomon Weisbard
Costumes design by Grier Coleman
Sound designed by Jeanne Wu
Cast: Debbie Tjong, Morgan Siobhan Green, Jane Bruce, Shawn Platzker, Brandon Ellis, Jamie Pittle
Running time: 75 minutes
Missed Connections is scheduled to run through September 25, 2016