Ever wonder how things would look if you’d never attended a particular event, never met a that one special person, or even just arrived at or passed through a location a few minutes later or earlier? Maybe you’d have ended up with a different career or sharing the intimate parts of your life with another person entirely. These are the thought-provoking questions pondered and depicted in If/Then currently playing at TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall through Sunday, June 12th.
The show’s main character Elizabeth (or “Liz” or “Beth”, depending on which life route she’s in at the moment), played by the talented Jackie Burns, has recently moved to New York City after a decade of marriage to the wrong man. Looking for a fresh start and some new connections, Elizabeth finds herself amid serious choices that will forever change the course of her life. Does she go for the passionate and hunky army doctor, Josh, played by Matthew Hydzik, or does she go for the safe, bi-sexual, and comfortable one, Lucas, played by Anthony Rapp? Or, should she marry the dream career and commit to a lifetime of community developments that will positively impact the lives of hundreds for years?
Addressing some emotionally charged topics such as the manic fear that can occur when a partner gets the news that s/he is about to be deployed overseas or the unfathomable pain caused by the death of a loved one, If/Then is a truly relatable story for all of us, complete with the heartbreaking realities that come with our life’s choices. But, it’s not all drama and seriousness, of course. Similar to our own lives, some characters provide much needed support all the way through whatever ridiculous selections get tried on for size. Elizabeth’s spunky best (and lesbian) friend, Kate, played by Tony-award winning LaChanze, is one such character always there to lift Elizabeth’s spirits, support her during hard times, and help her have a few more laughs.
Generating shrieks of laugher and extended applause, Burns’ rendition of “What the F**k?” is clearly an audience favorite musical number in If/Then. As the song title might suggest, Elizabeth tries to make sense out of where she finds herself with the men she’s dating. With her lover under the covers, Burns’ look of shock with herself as she sits up nude in her bed whispering “What the F**k?” is priceless. Perhaps even funnier is the audience members heard whispering to one another, “Yeah, I’ve been there . . .”
Set Designer Mark Wendland easily takes the audience to the NYC story setting with an industrial/urban look from brown metal railing and suspended multi-story drop ladders. In one scene in particular, the characters are chatting in a subway car, and the set, with its dankly lit space, harsh metal-on-metal rhythmic sounds, and screen behind showing the passing lights from the other subway cars is so convincing you’ll want to look around for the posted city map to ensure you don’t miss your stop.
Although we always recommend hitting TPAC’s Bar Room before a show or during intermission, you may want to limit your wine intake for If/Then, as you’re going to need to stay sharp and fully focused to keep up with Burns’ quick changes from “Liz” to “Beth.” Despite the eyeglasses and changing outfits, following which story is which proves a bit challenging, especially towards the latter part of the show. Or, maybe we were just too mesmerized by the fact that nearly all the cast members have solo singing parts at different times throughout the show. Go see for yourself which of your party members can keep the story lines straight!
Directed by Michael Greif and brought to you by the same producer as Wicked and Legally Blonde, If/Then welcomes ten local musicians playing at all Nashville performances. Way to represent, Nashville! Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased in person at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center box office or online at www.TPAC.org.