Narcissus and Echo is a fantastically goofy and fast-paced musical performed by artists who perfectly understand the tone, velocity, and fun of their script and music. Elizabeth Lanier has written a densely goofy and poignant script, with songs that on the whole contribute to the plot and theme of the piece, and never bore. Obviously expertly directed (also by Ms. Lanier), the shows use of space, the fringe setting, and the energy of the audience is top-shelf fringe fun. The show understands its venue and its audience perfectly.
Ian Michael’s music and music direction, in addition to his presence as accompanist, are fantastic. The dude understands how to make a lot out of a little, and it beautifully bolsters a talented group of singers, and stitches Lanier’s lyrics seamlessly.
The cast is great. Like super great. Narcissus is played by Ben Horwitz, whose relentless energy and explosive choices never cease to surprise an audience and leave us wondering where all that energy and presence comes from. The character of Echo has Jetta Juriansz at the helm, who might be one of the most precise and hysterical funny women I’ve had the pleasure of seeing tackle scripted work. Her voice is stellar, and even in the last half of the show, when her dialogue is extremely limited due to plot, her abilities to communicate, to make us laugh and empathize, are not.
The ensemble is flawless, everyone is cast incredibly well. A highlight for me was the poignantly sharp and funny Jennifer Zheng, who plays Grace. Zheng takes a supporting ensemble character, with multiple layers and about as much Iago-esque ferocity as you’ll find in a fun campy musical. The ineffable James Ferrero plays the “blind” prophet Tiresias, and beautifully handles the ridiculous, flippant, wannabe hippy vibe Lanier has given him. This is another testament to Lanier’s writing, that each character in the ensemble says something important, matters, gets laughs, leaves an impression, and doesn’t impede the pace of a musical that lasts a mere fifty minutes and feels like twenty.
Narcissus & Echo takes a wretchedly sad topic, mixes it with Greek Mythology, and stretches and pulls at it with a deft, witty hand. And, if we listen, it can also leave us learning more about ourselves and how we play our parts in the world.
What I didn't like
There isn’t much to dislike. There are a couple of campy songs that divert the flow of the story momentarily, but they earn their place by making us laugh and showing off some very talented ensemble members,
My overall impression
This is a fantastic fringe offering, and you should fight someone to get a ticket. Because it will certainly continue to sell out.