nytheatre.com review by Anthony Nelson
August 13, 2006
In Neil Massey's one man show Bloodties, he describes two major influences on his life: his father and a disembodied voice. Bouncing back and forth between the two, he tells a winding tale of his up-and-down career in the music business.
Massey is a very appealing presence and wins our sympathy with self-deprecating humor, even when he is describing the one time he snapped and grabbed a woman by the throat. His father was fearsome and physically abusive, and drove home the pronouncement to Massey that "if you haven't made something of yourself by 40, you're nothing!" Massey seems to be in the clear when, after a mysterious voice proclaims that he will be discovered by John Hammond, exactly that happens and he is signed to a major label record deal. For a while, Massey is a golden child, and is proclaimed the next big thing in interviews. While recording Massey's first album, however, Hammond dies, and Massey is dropped from the label. The promised success never materializes.
The next time the mysterious voice speaks is to tell Massey that he will meet the love of his life the next day. This also proves true, in the form of his future wife, singer Terry Radigan. There are complications here as well, as Radigan becomes a very successful musician while Massey is still stuck working as a waiter. This tale is intercut with stories of Massey's childhood, and his struggle to deal with some of his own inherited violent tendencies.
Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have completely worked through all of the issues he talks about in the play, and that leaves for a somewhat truncated and uneven theatrical experience as stories don't quite conclude. Massey's songs are featured prominently, and they are very good, but some of the musical performances are a bit tentative. The songs are not used in a consistent way; sometimes they relate to the previous scene, sometimes they help transition into a new sequence, sometimes they seem to appear from nowhere. The most effective song is one about being a waiter, which also happens to be the only song specifically integrated into the story Massey is telling. If the show is going to be developed further, Massey would do well to look for other places in the narrative where he can directly incorporate music; for example, it would be nice to hear one of the three songs that he mentions impressed John Hammond, or the song he humorously describes as "terrible" that he sang in his performance debut at a prison.
Catherine Miller Hardy's direction helps break the piece into sections and creates entertaining stage pictures, and Christopher Conforti's illustrations are a nice touch and help create some depth to the scenic design.
As we walked into the theatre, we were handed a complimentary cd of Massey's songs. He is both a good musician and an interesting actor, and the show would've been a much more enjoyable experience if he'd more actively combined the two.