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There’s a second in David Adjmi’s play “Stereophonic” when a discordant, mid-’70s band-on-the rise hears one among its songs performed again to them within the recording studio for the primary time, with all its a number of tracks layered collectively into an clever complete.

It leaves the ever-bickering band all of a sudden speechless, emotionally shocked and nonetheless with the belief that they’ve simply heard one thing actually nice.

Audiences could really feel the identical means after seeing this work of theatrical virtuosity, realizing that every one the tiny particulars, wild rhythms, and intelligent hooks introduced on stage have added as much as a piece that’s courageous, purposeful, and wealthy.

“Stereophonic,” which started at Playwrights Horizons, begins out at what looks as if a lightweight satire of drugged-out rockers, stuffed with foolish riffs, huge egos and comedian digressions. However ever so steadily, and with the very best of constancy, the play turns into one thing altogether contemporary and, on this play-with-music hybrid kind, indefinable.

As every of the 5 members of the almost-famous band arrives on the Sausalito studio to report its follow-up to its break-out album, you would possibly suppose you have been in the midst of a Robert Altman movie with its overlapping dialogue, a number of actions on stage and swings of temper and focus.

However over these layers of seemingly inconsequential verisimilitude, we glean that Diana (Sarah Pidgeon), the band’s proficient singer and co-songwriter, is insecure, feels stranded with out her tambourine and is intimidated by the risky Peter (Tom Picinka), her lover of 9 years and the band’s guitarist and forceful artistic energy.

Then there’s a trio of Brits: Holly (Juliana Canfield) on keyboards, whose relationship with drugged-out  bass whiz Reggie (Will Brill) is on the skids. Conserving issues cool and the group semi-grounded is drummer Simon (Chris Stack).

Overseeing the session on David Zinn’s well-worn, split-level set of engineering and glassed-in recording rooms, properly lit by Jiyoun Chan, are sound engineer Grover (Eli Gelb), who fudged his resume to get the gig, and his laid-back assistant Charlie (Andrew W. Butler).

One would possibly suppose at first this can be a tantalizing behind-the-music documentary on the making of a report like Fleetwood Mac’s era-defining “Rumours.” However these characters — and the terrific ensemble of actors who might in all probability tour as a band after the Broadway run — turn into uniquely suited to Adjmi’s thematic functions.

With their first album climbing the charts and the report firm upping the recording session’s funds with a clean examine, the stakes rise significantly together with the tensions of the group amid its shifting dynamics.

Because the sleep-deprived periods go from days to weeks to months and past, the theater-verité really feel established in the beginning subtly shifts and extra particular scenes of artistic and relationship dramas emerge, whether or not on break or whereas recording within the studio.

A pivotal meltdown scene between Peter and Diana is performed offstage and is eavesdropped on by the engineers — and us. The countless makes an attempt to get the proper sound for the drums wring humor out of the tedium and exhaustion of the inventive course of. A later recording session demonstrates that the fury amongst musicians at their breaking level can nonetheless end in beautiful harmonies.

On this rarefied recording world, Ryan Rumery does a miraculous job in what have to be an particularly difficult sound design; the fine-tuned music path is by Justin Craig. Enver Chakartash’s lived-in costumes assist outline the interval but additionally the emotional adjustments within the characters. (Diana’s free-flowing songbird of a gown on the finish is a pleasant nod to Stevie Nicks.)

The viewers could first be hooked by the rock archetypes, however Adjmi defies expectations. Peter could also be controlling and uncaring however as intensely performed by Pecinka, he has his personal insecurities, too — and although maddening, his artistic instincts are all the time proper.

Reggie appears to be the loquacious stoner barely able to going via a door, however he’s additionally a stunning guitarist, and Brill is a pleasure to look at in all the character’s evolutions.

Simon stands out as the cool and regular one within the group however as delicately performed by Stack, he’s a real household man with so much to lose and clearly weary of his mediating position as father determine. Holly is not only a supporting participant to the group — and complicated ally to Diana — however a delicate artist absolutely able to her personal rage. Canfield additionally has probably the greatest off-topic scenes, speaking about her love of the movie “Don’t Look Now” and its intersection of affection and grief, a observe that might resonate with the band.

Even Grover, who first seems to be the play’s comedian aid — and viewers stand-in in the course of the band’s lengthy sieges of insanity — seems to be one of the crucial authentic characters, and expertly performed by Gelb as a person who’s barely holding onto his job, if not his sanity. As for Charlie, nicely, even after a couple of years the band barely is aware of his identify, although Butler’s reactive efficiency is actually memorable.

However all through the three hours of the play’s recording periods, all eyes are on Diana, at first belittled and emotionally crushed by Peter’s brilliance and bullying. As performed by Pidgeon, Diana’s incremental discovery of her personal confidence, voice and braveness to go her personal means offers the play its emotional through-line.

Giving the present essential music cred are the unique songs by Will Butler, a former member of Arcade Fireplace. Within the half dozen partial or full numbers reflecting the woozy period of Brit blues-folk-rock-pop, Butler succeeds within the appreciable process of making a track that wants to remove the band’s breath in addition to ours. It does, thanks in no small half to Pidgeon’s exceptional efficiency.

In a means, director Daniel Aukin is very similar to Grover: the skilled craftsman and invisible hand on the controls, making the slightest changes in tempo and tuning to Adjmi’s composition and the performances to make all of it come collectively into a panoramic complete. The end result: A basic.



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