Off-Broadway Review: STEREOPHONIC (Playwrights Horizon)

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by Paulanne Simmons on October 29, 2023

in Theater-New York


David Adjmi’s Stereophonic at Playwrights Horizons, directed by Daniel Aukin, has an excellent ensemble cast, a perfectly realistic set by David Zinn and pleasant, if derivative music by Will Butler. Unfortunately, that doesn’t quite make up for the verbosity and excessive length of the play.

Eli Gelb and Andrew R. Butler

According to the playwright, “Stereophonic came to me when I thought my life as a playwright was over.” But then in 2013 he received a grant from the Mellon Foundation, a three-year residency at Soho Rep. As part of the residency, he agreed to write a 70-minute play. That play “grew to a two-act play, and then a three-act play, and then a four-act play, and before I knew it I found myself in love with plays and playwriting all over again.”

Juliana Canfield, Sarah Pidgeon

Perhaps that is what accounts for the self-indulgence and lack of discipline in Adjmi’s writing.

Chris Stack

Stereophonic takes place in the control room and sound room of a music studio in the 1970s, where we watch an up-and-coming rock band creating a new album during two recording sessions. Periodically we hear fragments of the songs, which will remind anyone who was alive and listening to music in the 1970s of Fleetwood Mac, the British-American rock band formed by singer and guitarist Peter Green.

Juliana Canfield, Tom Pecinka

During Act I, the band members (three guys and two girls – just like the abovementioned band) spend most of their time talking about their personal lives, various small issues in their daily world (where to find a dry cleaner and what to do about the broken coffee machine) and doing lots of coke. The two women, Diana (Sarah Pidgeon) and Holly (Juliana Canfield), are kittenish. The guys, Peter (Tom Pecinka), Reg (Will Brill) and Simon (Chris Stack), are swaggering narcissists. During act two they get down to business, but the recording session is constantly interrupted by their internecine bickering.

Chris Stack, Juliana Canfield

The fault lines are mainly caused by the dissolution of Peter and Diana’s marriage and Peter’s vicious bullying of anyone and everyone who interferes with his “instinct” for what is right for this recording in particular and the future of the band in general. But there are other points of conflict not fully explored. Fortunately, the band does succeed in producing an album, mostly thanks to the steadying hand of the sound engineer, Grover (Eli Gelb), and his self-effacingassistant, Charlie (Andrew R. Butler).

Sarah Pidgeon, Juliana Canfield, Tom Pecinka

The music industry is a business like any other. And it’s hard to believe any recording session for a major record company could proceed the way it does inStereophonic. But for those who like to think they’re getting a glimpse into typical backstage shenanigans, Stereophonic may provide fascinating moments of insight into the creative process. For others it may just be banter, bluster and bellowing.

Juliana Canfield, Will Brill

photos by Chelcie Parry

Tom Pecinka, Sarah Pidgeon

Playwrights Horizons Mainstage, 416 West 42nd Street
opened October 29
, 2023
ends on November 26, 2023
run time: 3 hours, with one 15 minute intermission
for tickets visit Playwrights Horizons

Will Brill, Chris Stack

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