nytheatre.com review by Case Aiken
July 21, 2012
One reason that I'm happy to be a theatre reviewer is that it provides me with the opportunity and incentive to see shows that I might otherwise miss out on. Swing State, an entry in this year's New York Musical Theatre Festival, is one of those shows that I might not have seen otherwise and would have been worse off for it. It's a well made, quiet story of personal healing, performed by two talented singers, that would never have caught my eye on its own. It's not perfect and I doubt it will elicit rave reviews, but it is a good musical that deserves to be among the many musicals playing right now.
The show follows a school teacher (Morgan Weed) who has massive stress-induced back problems and her interactions with the newly arrived gay chiropractor (Jed Resnick) who is finding it difficult to gain acceptance in the tight knit, conservative communities of Ohio. Wait…what? This might be my biggest issue with the show: one of the central plots of the show is the conflict between a liberal outsider and the conservative locals, but Ohio to my knowledge isn't particularly known for closed-minded conservatives and the definition of a swing state is that there are almost equal numbers of conservatives and liberals so that an election could go either way. I kept trying to not let the title have an effect on my opinion of the piece, but it kept creeping back in. Also, there's a swing set. This is a show about two damaged people who typically would have nothing to do with each other but by coming together find a way to heal each other while finding out about themselves in the process, and it's a good one, but I feel like the title is just a buzzword that was attached to a more traditional city mouse meets country mouse tale. It doesn't ruin the show, but it took me out of it more than once. My only other complaint is that it runs a little long, with the early portion taking up some time by redundantly setting the stage for the problems that the two main characters are going through. Again, nothing major and certainly the time spent was enjoyable as the music is catchy and the actors do a great job with their parts.
Swing State is a perfect example of a really solid festival show. The performers do a good job, the music is solid, and the story provides a great arc for the characters, but there are some minor quibbles that keep me from really lauding it and I'm not sure that I see it going on further. I do however need to say that there are several speeches and songs that could be taken for great audition pieces. This is a show that I'm glad exists and I think people should go see, but I don't know how much of a future it has.