The Power of the Crystals
nytheatre.com review by Ethan Angelica
August 12, 2011
James Call and Greg Travis' The Power of the Crystals seems to be perfect FringeNYC material: a fabulous concept, genre blending, a loopy title and a live band. Yet, it is hard-pressed to live up to its promise. Despite good performance and some very funny moments, the show's production does not serve what would otherwise be an easy win.
The show bills itself as rock-opera-meets-motivational-seminar, framed loosely as a television special hosted by the all-American Ted Tappet (E.J. Cantu). The show is centered around the teachings of James Call (incidentally, the lead singer of The Missing Teens, the band that backs him throughout the show), who is bound and determined to show the world the seven crystals of “success, success, success” (pronounced sook-SESS), the seven habits of highly destructive people and the 13 steps to “attaining Hawkman.” Along the way, we are taught to embrace anger, discover business acumen, revel in our attractiveness, man up and “get laid” (it's not entirely what you think it is). The banter is accompanied by a slide show (produced by Kerrianne Eames), which offers more than a few of the show's laughs and is mostly reproduced in your program for easy reference. Since the piece is presentational in nature, there's also good deal of audience interaction, which starts off fun (I appreciated the opportunity to tell off my companion for the sake of theater), but quickly grows tiresome. The throughline, if there is one, centers around Tappet's discovery of the crystals and ascent from “underemployed temp” to “irritated wanderer.”
The largest, and most noticeable, fault of the show is the terrible sound design, which distracts from all of the otherwise good work occurring on the stage. There is no way that Call's voice, even amplified, can compete with three guitars, two keyboard guitars, a drum set, a saxophone, a trumpet and three backup singers, and it seems miraculous that he only had a slight rasp in his voice after his incredibly charismatic 90-minute tour-de-force performance. I wish I could comment on lyrics, but the mix was so poor that the vast majority of them were unintelligible and, although The Missing Teen's music does have a fun indie rock quality to it, I found myself wishing that we could just skip the garbled songs and get on with the show. Cantu's performance is solid throughout, and he takes full advantage of the material he is given. Quin Gordon's direction is successful at keeping the show moving, but does little to unify the production.
The Power of the Crystals has the makings to be either a concert showcasing The Missing Teens, or a theatrical happening that lampoons our obsession with televised, cultish religion. Right now, however, it is neither. It comes across as 90 minutes of scattered, though funny, ramblings, backed by unintelligible music that blows out your eardrums and exhausts rather than excites.