The program reads, "company of pittsburgh presents [title of show]," but there's a reason for those typographical hijinks.
company of pittsburgh is a newer theatrical troupe, and the absence of capitalization signifies its catchphrase, "musical theater: deconstructed."
The troupe couldn't have picked a better exhibit than [title of show] — a musical deconstructing the deconstruction of musicals.
Book-writer Hunter Bell and composer/lyricist Jeff Bowen launched a now-legendary Internet campaign to bring this 2006 off-Broadway cult favorite to Broadway in 2008.
So what's it about? Itself. [title of show] opens with two men, Hunter and Jeff (originally played by Bell and Bowen), writing a musical about two men, Hunter and Jeff, writing a musical about two men writing a musical. The show chronicles its own creation, from initial impulse, early workshops and readings to the off-Broadway and Broadway productions. Tagging along are friends Susan and Heidi (originally played by Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff).
It's not just meta, it's meta-meta. The actors know they're playing actors in a theater; they know you're watching them; and they continually goof on the Aristotelian unities of theatrical space, action and time.
Did I just reference Aristotle? Please. The purpose of [title of show] is to make you laugh so hard your contacts pop out. While some of the jokes might be insider-ish, there's so much cleverness and delight on stage that even my date — who is fortunate enough not to have wasted her life in the musical-comedy gulag — was laughing as much as me.
And that's because of this truly terrific company of pittsburgh production, directed with laser-beam precision by Nick Mitchell and choreographed with humorous flair by Kristann Menotiades. Providing the polished musical direction — as well as his own comic mugging — is Douglas Levine.
Chad Elder, Jim Scriven, Christine Laitta and Jodi Gage sing and dance and clown around with unabashed glee. The hook is watching four hopefuls relentlessly strive to create an evening's entertainment. And because of the show's schematic and the talent involved, we end up rooting for — and being hugely rewarded by — Hunter, Jeff, Susan, Heidi, Chad, Jim, Christine and Jodi.