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Theater review: 'Insanity' at NoHo Arts Center

July 1, 2009 |  3:00 pm

INSANITY - 3 Insider humor darts about "Insanity" at the NoHo Arts Center. James J. Mellon and Scott DeTurk's new musical concerns a Hollywood schlockmeister who suddenly vows to make world-changing fare, which lands him in a psych ward. If that is not Tinseltown topical, what is?

Mellon's libretto follows Zarek Saxton (Kevin Bailey), whose descent into imbalance occurs after we first see him calling "Cut!" on the slasher pic he's helming. As narrated by psychiatrist Megan Goodman (Dana Meller), the plot pits studio politics, medical funding shortages and more than one personal history against the traumas of Zarek's fellow patients.

There's restrained aplomb to Mellon's direction, aided by the atmospheric contributions of lighting designer Luke Moyer and sound designer Jonathan Zenz. DeTurk's lyrics, though overrelying on blank-verse sentiments, are serviceable, and his melodies are substantial, especially the ballads. Under Bobby Nafarrete's musical direction, the talented cast goes for broke. Brad Blaisdell's hospitalized great actor, Sabrina Miller's helium-brained starlet and Alex Robert Holmes' guitar-wielding gay teen in particular are standouts.

However, the content and structure -- "Sullivan's Travels" meets "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" -- are problematic. For starters, there's not a real opening number, which leads to an uncertainty of tone. Plot revelations can feel too convenient, with many overt social issues layered onto Zarek and the inmates. Bailey and Meller do yeoman work, yet their lead roles need more development in musical theater terms. "Insanity" isn't without value or promise, but its future fortunes require further creative analysis.

-- David C. Nichols

"Insanity," NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Aug. 9. Mature audiences. $35. (818) 508-7101, Ext. 7. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

Caption: Dana Meller and Kevin Bailey in "Insanity." Credit: Michael Lamont