Jeff Bienstock's new musical The Morning After/The Night Before trods some well-worn territory: it's the story of a young man named Todd (Jed Resnick) who wakes up the night after a party at his house without any recollection of what happened the previous night- and that he's in bed with his best friend Cynthia (Michelle K. Moore), whose recent engagement the party was in celebration of. Fuzzy and unclear, he sends his girlfriend Ginger (Aly Viny) off to work, then goes through what he does remember (Cynthia arriving with her older snobby fiancé Rob (Jason Collins))- when his stoner lawyer friend Jared (Max Spitulnik) arrives, having lost a giant bag of marijuana at the party the night before, and also having blacked out, though he does remember a bit more than Todd. Then frigid doctor Bridget (Shira Gregory) arrives, wanting to know who awakened her dormant libido the night before- and then handsome lothario Craig (Whit Baldwin), who has an unexplained broken wrist. Each of them through their own separate flashbacks fill in the gaps in each other's memories till all is clear.
It's an amusing structure, and the script is very funny; really the only drawback is the music (also written by Bienstock). Stephen Sondheim is notoriously the only one who's been able to make a musical farce work, with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; the difficulty (in general, and specifically with this show) is that most songs slow down the action of the story, which stops the comedy dead for a bit. It's not the fault of the music, most of which is quite nice (and played wonderfully by a 5-piece band), it's just that, aside from a few numbers that advance the plot, the audience is more invested in the mystery Todd is trying to solve than to take time out for an amusing character number. Spitulnik has a funny stand-out number about advancing his law career through cannabis bribes, and an 11th hour duet for Todd and Cynthia based on a text from A Midsummer Night's Dream is perfectly sweet.
The cast is very good, especially the women - Moore is a winning engenue, Viny is a hoot as the perky Ginger, Gregory brings a perfect seen-it-all gravitas to Bridget, and Stacey Scotte is a genius comedienne as Craig's accidentally-invited uber-republican mother. The male roles are less interesting, though Resnick carries the story as Todd. Collins gives a great dry Frasieresque affectation to Rob, and Spitulnik and Baldwin mine every bit of comedy from their roles that they can.
Diana Glazer directs and choreographs with a steady eye, seamlessly moving from room to room and from last night to this morning on one unit set with only slight alterations.
As a straight play this might be a very funny farce, but as a musical it's winningly cute, but just a bit lacking in oomph.
The Morning After/The Night Before
Part of the New York International Fringe Festival
Lucille Lortel Theater 121 Christopher Street
Aug. 23 at 11:30 PM; Aug. 26 at 10:15 PM; Aug. 27 at 4:45 PM; Aug. 28 at 7:30 PM
For more information, http://www.tmatnb.com or http://www.fringenyc.org.