Book abnd Lyrics by Dan Collins
Music by Julianne Wick Davis
Direected by Thomas Caruso
Featuring Annette O'Toole and Jeff McCarthy

Reviewed by David Spencer

I wanted very much to be an ardent fan of Southern Comfort the musical at CAP21, about a small community of transgender people in rural Georgia, that has recently been extended through Nov 5. I got to it late in its run, having heard so much about it—and it is, as word has it, a sweetly delivered show (book and lyrics by Dan Collins, music by Julianne Wick Davis) that honors its (obvious) mission of dramatizing the universal humanity within socially (often) outcast people. But I was not among those swept into its warm embrace, at least never for very long at a time.

               In large measure because it’s based on a documentary film of the same name—faithfully, so I’m informed—it has a meandering structure for a musical, introducing its characters and dealing out its information at a measured, “journalistic” pace, and doesn’t really gather even its appropriately gentle narrative momentum until two thirds of the way through Act One. The score, in a similar fashion, concentrates on tolerance, love, forbearance and other manner of heart-tuggy sub-topics and overall lands soft.

               For those attendees who are into the show—and they are many, many, perhaps even the majority; the extension of Southern Comfort is easily as much a product of word-of-mouth as reviews—its relaxed enfolding would seem to be a virtue. For me, though I was never bored or unsympathetic, I was often aware that the limits of my endurance were being reached, and without any irritation or impatience, I was surfeiting on gentleness. (My companion of the evening felt similarly and even decided against remaining for Act Two.)

               That said, the show is certainly unusual enough to deliver on “theatricality” handily, and all creative hands, including director Thomas Caruso, are delivering an A-level game, as is the cast, headed by Jeff McCarthy and Annette O’Toole, playing way against their types (which, in a way, is the point). In that sense it’s a memorable experience and I don’t think you’ll be sorry to attend. But if you do, keep your reasonable expectation of being enchanted and touched side-by-side with being prepared not to love it anywhere near as much as you've been told you might.

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