IF/THEN is a bonafide patience tester. Not only is it way too long, but the story is a convoluted mess. In an attempt to be artistic and creative, the story is an abstract tale of love, choices, and what-ifs but its meandering, confusing, and full of clunky lines. Jackie Burns plays “Elizabeth,” a woman who has two paths – one, with a random stranger named “Josh” and the other a conflicting affair with her former lover and now boss, “Stephen” and a complicated relationship with “Lucas,” another former lover who also happens to be bisexual.
The concept is great. The execution not so much. That’s not to say the show is without merit. Here are five reasons to see it:
1. Jackie Burns. That’s all that needs said. She carries this show musically, emotionally, and completely invests in her character. I kept staring at her, wondering where I knew her from, and realized that I saw her at PCLO this summer in “The Wedding Singer” as Linda. I thought she was way underutilized in that role and I am glad to see I was right. While the show is excruciating to sit through in some moments with wooden acting from the ensemble, frustrating story development, and a slow pace we are rewarded for our patience by Burns’ spectacular performance. Her soaring vocals in the climactic number, “Always Starting Over,” are worth the nearly three hours spent in the theatre.
2. American Idol alum, Tamyra Gray. While I think she might be miscast here, I loved Tamyra in the first season of American Idol and I was excited to see her name on the cast board in the lobby.
3. Inventive sets and staging. There’s no set designer listed in the program but he or she should be recognized for the interesting turntable in the scene in Elizabeth’s apartment among other things.
4. Anthony Rapp. Rapp, famous for RENT (and infamous for having a brother who is a playwright with some very disturbed and genius works available) is a great actor. His voice is serviceable but its his acting that sets him apart.
5. The last ten minutes. I already told you about Jackie Burns’ voice (consistently great throughout but amazing in the climax) but there’s also some great moments, interesting ideas, and cool concepts about regrets, consequences, and love that come together in the final scenes.
IF/THEN should be a better show; but its not terrible. And if you invest, the payoff is worth it. Just know its an inconsistently rocky road on the way there.
IF/THEN plays at the Aronoff Center for the ARts through February 7th. Tickets and more information can be found here.