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American Tales

<em>American Tales</em> is an adaptaion of Mark Twain&rsquo;s romantic comedy, <em>The</em> <em>Loves of Alonzo Fitz Clarence and Rosannah Ethelton,</em> and Herman Melville&rsquo;s darker comedy, &lt

American TalesDeaf West Theatre, Los Angeles(866) 811-4111

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Based on two very different 19th­-­century works of literature, American Tales is “a bipolar musical, in the best sense of the term,” said David Ng in the Los Angeles Times. The show begins with an adaptation of Mark Twain’s The Loves of Alonzo Fitz Clarence and Rosannah Ethelton, a romantic comedy that’s full of outrageous plot twists stemming from an accidental phone call during the early days of the telephone. The evening’s second half is a darkly comic take on Herman Melville’s novella Bartleby the Scrivener, about a mild-mannered, eccentric copy clerk who refuses to either work or be fired for intransigence. Together the works create an odd juxtaposition, but Ken Stone’s adaptations and lyrics entertainingly highlight the fault line in the American psyche that has us “forever bouncing between strained cheer and hopeless depression.”

Director Kay Cole effortlessly shifts between the two works’ very different moods, said Terry Morgan in Variety. The sharp cast, many of whose members pull double duty in wildly divergent roles, never misses a beat. As Twain’s Alonzo, Daniel Blinkoff gives an openhearted and likable performance, then perfectly delivers the flip side as Melville’s “waspish” clerk, Nippers. Raphael Sbarge gives an indelible, affecting turn as Bartleby and is wickedly over-the-top as Twain’s thwarted suitor, Burley. Though their plots and themes are different, both Tales hit on “a motif that resonates from the 1890s to the Internet age”: From the lead performances right down to Jan Powell’s effective and understated score, every detail contributes to a bittersweet meditation on “the difficulty and importance of human connection.”

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