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Songs of Love: A Theatrical Mixtape

nytheatre.com review by Josh Sherman
August 14, 2012

Nat Cassidy is an audacious fellow.  His brand-new pastiche of twisted short plays and quirky folk-rock, Songs of Love: A Theatrical Mixtape on MacDougal at the Players Theater, is perfectly suited to the sensibilities of FringeNYC festivalgoers demographic.  He’s clearly poured his heart into the project as the writer, director and performer-in-the-pit for all of the acoustic numbers that sew together the evening.  He even dedicates the show to us in the program by reminding us that “This is a mixtape.  I made it for you.  It was made with love.”  [To our younger readers – a mixtape is to the 90’s as a playlist on your Ipod or Spotify is to now.  Please continue reading.]

Ah yes, love.  The over-arching theme of the evening has been used by Cassidy to cover his forays into the touching, bizarre, nasty and occasionally grotesque topics covered in each of his short plays/’tracks’ on the mixtape.  Though I have no doubt about Cassidy’s sincerity in his stated dedication to the audience, I quibble with his very loose definition of love in some of the plays included in this piece.  Which is a shame, because it is plain to see that Cassidy is a very talented guy who can certainly write himself a hit song or two, and more than one short successful play .  He doesn’t need the gimmick of the ‘love’ umbrella as an artist, and as a result, some of these pieces feel a bit forced into that theme/format that they don’t really adhere to.

Nearly the first half of Song of Love, labors somewhat, until the stage lights up in the presence of the dependable Kristen Vaughn in the piece titled “Lunar Eclipse”.  Vaughn delivers a gorgeous monologue that shines the light on early 20’s sweethearts, and how life changes them over time and how their love faded but is still remembered.  From that point forward, it is as if Cassidy gets on a roll assembling the next tracks in the mixtape, because that is when we get to the hits.  “Ticking” features a couple who begin in a state of comfort, then in response to a constant clatter start to get on each other nerves, and get into a massive fight – a circular pattern that almost every couple can relate to.  “The Club” – also featuring an almost unrecognizable Vaughn – is a brilliant satire of clubgirls looking for love on a Saturday night.  “The Scariest Thing” is Cassidy’s darkest piece yet, which I will not spoil for the viewer but suffice to say provides us with a serious takeaway on a new definition of the word stalker.

Cassidy’s original musical offerings also improve as Songs of Love progresses.  “I Don’t Need You Around”, “Don’t Blow Your Chance of Happiness on Me” and “Cliché” are truly inventive and well-utilized – a flattering imitation of Jonathan Richman tracks from the film There’s Something About Mary came to mind. 

Cassidy’s voice as a writer is unique and very clever, and there’s a lot to like here when he lets his pieces develop organically.  Still, it seems to me that Songs of Love could use some help in the direction department, specifically on ‘Side A’ of the mixtape, as I know I would be wearing out the rewind button so that I could hear more of ‘Side B’ if I had the wherewithal. Regardless, I will still be looking forward to Cassidy’s next project, even if it’s a set of covers.