Veteran lovemakers may bristle at advice from a group of virtual teenagers, but it would take a real snob to resent counsel as sincere in content and slick in form as "Waiting for the Feeling," the third entry in the American College Theatre Festival, from Brandeis University.
This musical chronicle of coeducational attraction and repulsion may convey the impression that Brandeis is less an institution of higher education than a sexual laboratory. But whatever today's Brandeis students may have become, they are clearly still acquiring at least one arcane skill-mounting a musical comedy.
"Waiting for the Feeling" is a campus-based version of Stephen Sondheim's "Company" that follows a group of underclasspersons as they demonstrate, by trial and recurring error, a few basic ways in which male-female relationships can go wrong. The hero and heroine take an act to dispose of two selfish, undesirable partners and find each other, and another act to run their own mutual-admiration-society romance into the ground.
The characters are so crisply defined, however, and the dialogue so gently efficient that this thoroughly trampled territory seems almost fresh:
"You want a shoulder?" asks the heroine of the recently jilted hero. "Not right now," he replies. "It's soft," says she. "I'm sure," mutters he.
The lyrics, written in the same close-cropped style, make no effort to hide the influence of Sondheim-one song even includes the phrase "Aren't we a pair?" from Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns," as if to make a formal record of the debt.
But whenever the show threatens to become unbearably arch, it manages to take a redeeming turn toward idiotic innocence (often shoved in that direction by an oddball comic actor named Seth Jonathan Friedman).
The overlapping authors' credits make it hard to dtermine just who is responsible for what, but it would not be at all surprising to run across one or more of these names in a Broadway equally for William K. Dreskin, the man solely and unambiguously responsible for the clear, intense and smartly arranged music.
If any of the principal singers have Broadway in mind, however, they will have to cultivate some increased lung-power. Even in the modest confines of the Terrace Theater this weekend, a few fo the voices seemed to take a wrong turn somewhere between the stage apron and the first row.
WAITING FOR THE FEELING, an original musical with book by David Crane, Seth Jonathan Friedman and Marta Kauffman; music by William K. Dreskin; lyrics by David Crane, William K. Dreskin and Marta Kauffman.Directed by David Crane; set and lighting by Jeff Calderon; choreographed by Ellen Siegel.
Presented by the Theatre Arts Department of Brandeis University.
At the Terrace Theatre Friday April 20 and Saturday April 21.