When writer George Davis used his last ten dollars as a down payment to rent a dilapidated townhouse at 7 Middagh Street in Brooklyn Heights, as America stood posed to enter World War II, he envisioned creating “an experiment in communal living.” By inviting like-minded literary personalities, writers, poets and composers, to help share the costs, he hoped to establish a cultural utopia where ideas would flourish and grow.
Until Sunday, March 18, New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre, Stage II, in conjunction with The Public Theater in New York City, will present “February House,” a world premiere musical with book by Seth Bockley and music and lyrics by Gabriel Kahane.
To share his bohemian lifestyle, George Davis, wonderfully wrapped in silk by Julian Fleisher, invites artists well respected in their various creative fields, like the young Southern writer Carson McCullers (Kristen Sieh), the poet W. H. Auden (Erik Lochtefeld) and his companion Chester Kallman (A. J. Shively), the musical composers Benjamin Britten (Stanley Bahorek) and Peter Pears (Ken Barnett) and the startling burlesque sensation Gypsy Rose Lee (Kacie Sheik). In additon Carson’s husband Reeves (Ken Clark) and Auden’s wife on paper Erika Mann (Stephanie Hayes) also make their emotions evident.
This intriguing coterie of personalities and egos are deliciously decadent as they dabble in drugs and drinks, all geniuses in their own right, as they try to make Davis’ ideal world work in reality.
An abundance of bed bugs, mold, leaking roofs and a lack of hot water disturb the bliss, as do the looming shadows of war and the pressing sexual orientations of the boarding houses’ inhabitants.
This menagerie of artists, a collection of misfits, party frantically to escape the realities of the world but eventually they invade the Victorian “gingerbread house” and cause it to crumble.
Of all the lyrical songs, “A Room Comes Together” is especially appealing as provided by musicians Andy Boroson and Andy Stack. Davis McCallum directs this charming peephole into the lives of these cultural icons. The home’s name was bestowed because so many shared a February birthday.
For tickets ($45-65), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Witness an experiment in communal living that sounds perfectly marvelous in the mind of George Davis but doesn’t translate so romantically into reality.