Lounge

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By Tanya Marquardt. Directed by Ilena Lee Cramer. A Chrysalis Theatre and Screaming Weenie Productions presentation. At the Mynt Lounge until August 12

It took me a while to figure out that Lounge is about intimacy. I could have used a little more help getting my bearings.

In this solo show, Tanya Marquardt, who also wrote the piece, plays a torch singer who's still rehashing a long-ago breakup with a Las Vegas showgirl. She mixes two sets of music by an eclectic group of songwriters””including Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, and the Pixies””with sometimes-surreal patter. She describes singing “Ave Maria”  in front of an artificial waterfall, for instance, and wondering what happened to the one white dove that was released as part of the act.

From the beginning, some things worked for me. The singer makes real eye contact with everybody in the audience; she's quietly vulnerable and it's hypnotizing. Marquardt presents the chanteuse with a combination of pain and girlish cover-up; the performer's considerable beauty helps to make this intriguing. And pianist Joel DeStefano, who accompanies her, is a stylish and adept musician.

Marquardt doesn't have the vocal chops to carry the concert portion of the show, however. Her alto is pleasing in its lower register but weakens and tends to go slightly off-key higher up. Besides, the singer's rambling story doesn't start to gel until the second act.

I perked up a bit, though, when lyrics about lost love started to push the singer off the rails, and I got downright alert when she asked if anybody in the audience had experienced anal sex. That was one of a series of questions, including “How many of you love the sound of your own fridge?”  that finally clued me into the intimacy angle””or more precisely, finally gave me a reason to pay attention to it. Then she knelt and sang one whole song to a woman, gazing intently at her the whole time. And the snippets about the showgirl finally expanded into a slight but poignant story.

Awakened, I realized that the show is exploring performance””especially the style of performance that has brought us Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf, and so many other publicly broken women””as a form of compensatory intimacy. And of course all performances, including our characterizations of ourselves, deal with loneliness in one way or another.

I liked the destination, but I wish the journey had started in earnest earlier.