When burned-out middle-aged Professor Paul Diollio (Jerry Perna) learns via cell phone messages that he has been denied tenure, his car has been repossessed, and his girlfriend can’t take anymore of him or his Beach Boys’ obsession, the bad news launches an emotional meltdown that forces him to examine his long-held tastes and attitudes within the context of his final class lecture on “Sound Judgement: Theories & Speculation on Popular Music.” Perna’s THE MUSIC YOU REMEMBER, in its world premiere with White Pines Productions, is a poignant personal reflection on the songs and images that mark the key episodes in our lives and inform our personalities, and on the dangers of living in the roseate glow of the past, through media-based memories that are not always as perfect, accurate, or relevant in today’s world as we would like to believe.
The 90-minute show mixes live performance with smart references to philosophy, psychology, literature, and history, and an arresting array of audio-visual icons of Pop culture (sound design by Larry Fowler; video design by Michael Long), presented by the professor through vintage record albums on an obsolete turntable and old photos on an antiquated slide projector. He relishes the safety and familiarity of the formative years of his youth, so remains stuck in the pre-digital, pre-feminist period of low tech, male dominance, and women who wait for their wandering men, as expressed in the lyrics of his favorite Top 40 songs.
Sensitively directed by Benjamin Lloyd, Perna creates a touching study of ‘manopause’ as we follow his sad demeanor and expressive face through Diollio’s mid-life crisis, with its stages of regret, depression, psychotic break from reality, growing self-awareness, and tearful realization that “sentimentality is not popular these days.” Kristen Bailey, as the professor’s “teaching assistant” and personifications of the voices in his head–of every woman who has impacted his life and assumptions–taunts his addiction to the past, encourages him to have fun, and cajoles the “retro moron” into accepting the present. She is particularly humorous as the archetypes of the ‘60s sex object and towering witch, in hilarious costumes by Meredith Boring. October 1-20, 2013, whitepinesproductions.org.