How does one even begin to describe "The Stone Angel"? Its creator, Toby Tate, calls it a "lyric eulogy for singers, dancers and woodwinds," but somehow that doesn't come close to capturing the unrelenting absurdity of this hour-long production, which had its premiere this weekend at Tawes Recital Hall.
The plot of "The Stone Angel" seems to be a sub-bargain-basement version of Stephen Sondheim's glorious musical "Sunday in the Park With George." Mark, the central figure, is an artist in love with his model, Marie, an ambitious lass who falls in with "Nick the punk" and "Nita the whore" and eventually does herself in. Years later, Mark destroys himself as well. If the story line appears lucid here, it is only because I read the program's synopsis. What actually occurred on stage was this: While a quartet sang from the side of the stage, four dancers strode and crawled about, pawed each other, donned hideous masks and hooded robes, and fell to the ground. The lackluster dancing made a bad choreographic situation even worse.
The score is a schizophrenic mixture of dirge-like harmonies and jazzy show tunes. Plaudits to the musicians -- baritone David Young, mezzo Susan Fleming Chin, tenor Bruce McClurg and soprano Nancy Young, as well as a fine woodwind ensemble -- who gave everything they had to this inane creation.