TOUCHTONES (Arden): This must be a bad connection

Touchtones Arden Theatre review

Photo by Mark Garvin.

Abstinence meets phone sex in TOUCHTONES, a musical fantasy in world premiere at the Arden.  Naughty and nice collide in the adventures of Christine (Alex Keiper) a virginal neophyte who becomes a rising star in the phone sex biz after breaking up with her fiancé, Justin (Michael Doherty). A Golden Circle chastity dweeb with a white wedding dress fetish, he cheated on her over a sex phone line.

Briefly but deftly drawn and actually sweet co-worker characters are played by fine actors. Wonderful musicians in the live mini-orchestra play middle-of-the-road musical fare by collaborator Robert Maggio. So why isn’t this show a success?

One problem is that a couple of clever songs with snappy lyrics are offset by too many weak, over-sentimentalized, over-explained personal ballads. Another problem is that the show is just too simplistic in concept, especially coming from Michael Hollinger, a pretty sophisticated writer.

At intermission I hoped against hope that all the prognosticators in the ladies room and I would be wrong. But we were not: Justin discovers Christine’s secret job, suffers, and becomes ready to do what she wants. After a walk on the wild and tawdry side a purportedly self-actualized Christine still wants what she wanted before. The heroine transforms from a woman who is ready and wants to “do it” to a few months older woman who is ready and wants to “do it.”

Early on you see where this show is going, and it goes there.

[Arden Theatre Company] October 19-December 3, 2017; ardentheatre.org

 

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About the author

Kathryn Osenlund, theater and film junkie, is a former National Critics Institute fellow, NEA fellow in Arts Journalism, and member of the American Theater Critics Assn Steinberg and Osborn playwriting awards committee. A Barrymore Award nominator and professor emeritus in communications and theater, Kathryn also writes for NY-based CurtainUp.com. On twitter @theatrendorphin.