This is another effort from the four-person writing-performing team that brought us <Title of Show> a few year earlier. It retains that show’s intensely post-modern sensibilities and self-referential nature, but is far more earnest and takes itself far more seriously than the earlier show. Its nominal credo is a complete focus on the here and now, a kind of secular Buddhist enlightenment, hence the title.
The first two songs are meditations on the nature of the universe, “What Are the Odds” and “More Life”, and the last two, “This Time” and the title-song, are intense if somewhat conventional expressions of the show’s message. But most of the show consists of the various leads reliving their childhoods in song, an odd choice for a show founded on the idea of ignoring past regrets, but one that admittedly offers more material than the show’s rather narrow nominal premise—after all, Carpe Diem anthems are all well and good, but an entire score of them would get old pretty fast.
Several of these songs are highly interesting, with “Dazzle Camouflage”, about a ‘sensitive’ (read:gay) boy who disguises his inherent difference by playing the class clown, being particular insightful. But others dabble in cliché, something you’d normally never associate with this team, like “Members Only”, a fairly routine song about teenagers not having the expensive clothes needed to fit in with the popular crowd. The result feels more like a group therapy session than the staged commentary track of their earlier show, but it does manage to hold interest just by the sheer force of being so insanely original, just as that show did.
If <Title of Show> didn’t exist, I would probably be giving this musical a much better review, but we’ve seen the kind of unique, a-genre-in-and-of-itself kind of theater this team does before, and while there are more than enough differences in this generally fascinating work to keep it from being just a lazy recycling of the original, the fact still remains that they did it better the first time. This is still all-in-all a really interesting show, though, so don’t let the fact that it’s always going to live somewhat in its predecessor’s shadow keep you from seeking out.