I can heartily recommend “Slut” to people who enjoy d---- and b---- and especially a constant stream of t----. Oops. Wait a second. That last one is “tunes” – I'm allowed to spell that out in a family paper. The musical may be as evanescent in memory as the taste of a cold margarita on the tongue, but it's plenty of fun going down.
Actor's Theatre of Charlotte is mounting the local premiere of the show, which is still being tweaked by librettist-lyricist Ben Winters and composer-lyricist Stephen Sislen. In fact, they attended Friday's performance and stayed to discuss their play with the audience.
For all its naughtiness, “Slut” espouses familiar values: Love conquers all obstacles, rich people flying solo can't enjoy themselves as much as humble couples, and nobody in a bar is really ugly at 2 a.m. on a slow weekend. (That must be an old-fashioned idea; I heard it from my elders 40 years ago.) The profane jokes may be mildly shocking, but the creators' conclusions are not.
ATC artistic director Chip Decker introduced the show by suggesting people check their brains at the door for this summer bauble. That was good advice, for taut plot construction and consistent characterization aren't available (or, perhaps, even desirable).
“Slut” consists of vignettes about two friends from childhood who have reached their early 20s with divergent views: Adam (Tommy Foster) wants to sail around the world, philandering with a girl in every port, but Dan (Jon Parker Douglas) wants to become a doctor and settle down. He has his eye on Delia (Tory Macomson), whose familiar dream points to stardom as a rocker.
Lilly (Liz Hutchens), the sardonic barmaid at their watering hole, expresses the “realistic” viewpoint in the show-stopping number “Lower the Bar,” where she urges all of us to aim no higher than we're sure to reach: “Buy a lamp from Ikea! Full price for ‘Mamma Mia!'” (Yes, it's a New York-centric show. There's a song about the disadvantages of dating men from Long Island.)
But Winters and Sislen want us to believe that seemingly impossible dreams are achievable: Lugubrious J-Dogg (Ryan Stamey) may not be cured of herpes, but it needn't be an impediment to true…er…gratification with Veronica (Candace Neal), the dim-witted woman responsible for his condition. Even newly divorced Janey (Elizabeth Simpson) and sottish Doug (Stan Peal) may find an odd, desperate connection.
The songs have zest, snappy rhythms and wit, though few of the tunes stayed with me beyond the parking lot. The actors and a crisp four-piece band sell the music for all it's worth and make us believe, however briefly, that both fidelity and infidelity have their merits. To each his or her own – perhaps for a few restless hours, perhaps for a lifetime.