Second Hand Information | Hannah Gold


Partway by means of David Adjmi’s new narrative play, Stereophonic, 5 musicians and singers, assembled behind a recording studio’s glass window, workshop their new materials stay on stage. They begin and cease, permitting the flame of their artistry to die out and reignite as they check out concepts. Awash in Jiyoun Chang’s immaculate lighting design, the band appears to be like as if it’s training on the backside of a crimson or purple swimming pool.

The quantity they’re making an attempt to nail is midway between Fleetwood Mac and early-Aughts indie rock—appropriately, because it was composed by Will Butler, a former member of Arcade Fireplace. Two audio producers seated on the set’s sound board watch the band, their backs to us. The tune’s delicate keyboard riff cuts by means of a storm of guitars and drums, because the lyrics evoke the return of some acquainted hazard or longing (“Whatever wakes you in the morning/whatever keeps you up at night”). Simply when the collaboration is reaching a brand new degree of depth, the lead vocalist calls out to cease. “You came in a measure early again,” she informs one of many two guitarists with a observe of desperation.

Adjmi’s play—a three-hour-long assortment of loosely related episodes within the lifetime of a fictional mid-Seventies band recording an album in Sausalito and, later, Los Angeles—options many related moments of stay efficiency. They’re the excessive factors of Stereophonic, which final fall had a profitable run at Playwright’s Horizons that obtained nearly unanimous vital reward. A pair weeks after its Broadway debut earlier this spring, it was nominated for 13 Tonys, essentially the most of any play within the award’s historical past.

Julieta Cervantes

From left: Juliana Canfield as Holly, Eli Gelb as Grover, Tom Pecinka as Peter, Will Brill as Reg, Sarah Pidgeon as Diana, Andrew R. Butler as Charlie, and Chris Stack as Simon in David Adjmi’s Stereophonic, 2024

Underneath the route of Daniel Aukin, the ladies within the band strut robotically round David Zinn’s pristine wood-paneled cocoon of a set, whereas the lads transfer about in relaxed, lounging fashion. All put on denim at first, normally bellbottoms; towards the top a number of are in vests. The cumulative visible impact recollects that of these Sims growth packs with a a long time theme. The meandering dialogue, as in lots of Adjmi’s performs, is stuffed with exact line overlaps, a technique that fits some scenes higher than others. When a number of side-chats occur on the similar time, it properly conveys the manic studio environment; when characters keep on lengthy conversations during which they do nothing however artfully speak over one another, the result’s self-conscious sufficient to conflict with the present’s reigning documentary vibe.  

As many critics have famous, Stereophonic clearly attracts inspiration from the making of Fleetwood Mac’s enormously profitable 1977 album Rumours, the second created by the group’s best-known roster: Lindsey Buckingham (lead guitar, vocals), Stevie Nicks (vocals, tambourine), Christine McVie (vocals, keyboard), John McVie (bass), and Mick Fleetwood (drums). The band within the play has no identify and its members have new ones, however their personae and relationships to 1 one other are primarily the identical.

Diana (Sarah Pidgeon), like Nicks, prides herself on her songwriting presents and pouts over by no means having mastered any devices other than tambourine and triangle. She’s in a crumbling relationship along with her fellow American bandmate Peter (Tom Pecinka), who shows traditional Lindsey-Buckingham-in-the-Seventies-traits: imperious, unstable, and proficient. Holly (Julianna Canfield) and Reg (Will Brill), two-thirds of the band’s British faction, are slowly breaking apart, totally on account of Reg’s reckless consuming (in different phrases, they’re the McVies), and Simon (Chris Stack), the drummer, learns in the middle of the play that his spouse is leaving him and taking the youngsters along with her, the destiny that befell Fleetwood whereas recording Rumours.

The scenes in Stereophonic during which the band members grind away within the recording sales space are hypnotic and soothing. I may watch them name out for extra reverb all day lengthy. Every of the characters will get their second to throw their little tantrum over a particular sonic annoyance. And but the group’s shut resemblance to Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac makes it all of the extra evident that no person talks onstage concerning the band’s explicit imaginative and prescient for his or her album, nor what drew them collectively within the first place, other than contractual obligations and a mutual love of snorting cocaine from a comically outsized bag. “We’re such a good band!” Simon yelps on the finish of the second act. “I’m passionate,” Diana tells Peter. “I care, you know I care.” However what makes this band so good, and what do they care about?

Adjmi, a toddler of the Seventies, was raised among the many Syrian Jewish neighborhood within the Brooklyn neighborhood of Midwood. His memoir, Lot Six (2020), particulars an agonized youth spent rejected and misunderstood by some members of his household and just about everybody on the native yeshiva he attended: “Whatever strangeness I possessed innately was set in blunt relief against the straitlaced normalcy of the other students who debated hotly the kosherness of Funyuns and Snickers bars.” Clearly Adjmi mined the observational powers of a brilliant misfit to write down his breakout present, Gorgeous, which premiered in 2008. In it a spoiled and naive newlywed of sixteen begins questioning the authority of her a lot older husband and has an affair with the girl she hires to scrub her Midwood home. The story is suspenseful, the dialogue has a brash, frantic rhythm, and even the stage instructions are vivid (one directs the newlywed and her girlfriends to sport “meretriciously loud bangles”).

Extra lately Adjmi has turned towards experimental parodies. 3C (2012) spoofs the tv sequence Three’s Firm, and Marie Antoinette (2012) reads like a whimsical historical past lesson (generally the French monarch converses with a sheep). Stereophonic, in distinction, isn’t framed as parody or a historic recitation. Admji has maintained in interviews that the unnamed band is supposed to be fictional, a pastiche of disparate influences: lately he informed The Ahead that points of Fleetwood Mac’s “romantic entanglements” made their approach into his play “but it was unconscious.” Elsewhere he has cited as inspirations Keith Richards’ memoir, the Led Zeppelin tune “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” and autobiographical experiences. Why, then, hew so intently to documented accounts of 1 explicit band?

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Julieta Cervantes

Sarah Pidgeon as Diana, Juliana Canfield as Holly, and Tom Pecinka as Peter in David Adjmi’s Stereophonic, 2024

The newest guide on the making of Rumours known as Making Rumours (2012). It was written by Ken Caillat (father of the pop singer Colbie Caillat), who, very similar to Grover (Eli Gelb) in Stereophonic, was promoted from coengineer to coproducer in the middle of engaged on the album. (He coauthored the guide with Steven Stiefel.) A major variety of plot beats and narrative particulars from Adjmi’s play are mirrored within the pages of Caillat’s guide. As an illustration, Caillat writes that Nicks didn’t need to shave 4 minutes off her breakup ballad “Silver Springs,” however the album was too lengthy and he or she already had extra songs on Rumours than anybody else; Diana faces the identical predicament. Elsewhere within the guide Caillat recounts a tense incident during which Buckingham took the freedom of recording McVie’s bass half himself, the way in which he wished it to sound, as Peter does with Reg’s half. Caillat additionally claims that Buckingham as soon as pressured him to document over a guitar riff within the hopes that his subsequent take can be even higher. Caillat did what he was requested. Then Buckingham determined he favored the earlier take in any case, however it now not existed, so he vented his frustration at Caillat by screaming in his face—an trade almost equivalent to 1 within the play between Peter and Grover.

Evaluating how these anecdotes come throughout within the guide and within the play helps carry the self-love of Adjmi’s character improvement into focus. The considerably repetitive and mundane scenes of composing, bitching, combating, and fiddling in Making Rumours maintain curiosity due to Fleetwood Mac’s music. A fictional play doesn’t have the luxurious of drawing from a monumental physique of labor or counting on a public’s long-term relationship with particular songs, the form of devotion that has pushed many a fan to sit down patiently by means of a middling jukebox musical. The problem for Stereophonic was to reverse-engineer this electrical reference to dialogue fascinating, particular, and strange sufficient to make us interested by music composed by a bunch of made-up folks.

The play fails to satisfy that troublesome job. A few of Stereophonic’s vignettes sail alongside wonderful on nice chitchat of the type that retains all office eventualities afloat. Reg goes on an intoxicated spiel a couple of native zoning dispute; Holly divulges her recipe for custard; one of many two sound guys, Charlie (Andrew R. Butler), gossips with Grover about some musicians a buddy of his labored with.

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Julieta Cervantes

Andrew R. Butler as Charlie and Eli Gelb as Grover in David Adjmi’s Stereophonic, 2024

However too usually Adjmi leans on clichés for instance the present’s deeper currents. “Any relationship is a series of negotiations,” Holly posits throughout a summit with Diana concerning the state of their romantic lives. “That’s what it is, you’re negotiating to get something, and in return you give something, and that’s the bargain.” Actually, that’s what a cut price at all times is. Brill can squeeze the utmost quantity of comedy out of each line he’s given, however a few of his character’s musings—resembling “I want to be around people who I love and who love me; you can give up on a person but you can’t ever, ever give up on love”—can’t presumably land. In a heated dialog about whose contributions are most vital to the band, Peter accuses Simon of hating him, and Simon observes that he’s being a bit unprofessional. “Oh right, you’re a professional, you’re holding it all together,” shouts Peter in Pecinka’s relentless monotone. “Cause you’re the daddy right? You’re the big man? Well if you’re such a great dad, where are your kids?” The viewers gasped at that line, which sounded to me as if it may have been lifted from a Lifetime film.

Often Adjmi dangles an remoted element from a personality’s painful backstory, as if to assist clarify their current conduct. Peter is likely one of the solely bandmates whose childhood is remarked upon. His father made the younger musician really feel like he may by no means measure up, partially by encouraging an excessive amount of competitors between Peter and his brother (as with the true Lindsey Buckingham, Peter’s brother is an Olympic-level swimmer). Within the present’s second half we study that Holly’s mom was a main faculty instructor and that Grover was raised by a single mom. “If you don’t learn, you suffer. My dad walked out when I was a kid, and that’s what my mom told me,” Grover says to Charlie, a revelation that’s not to be examined additional.

“I want to live in art,” Reg declares throughout considered one of his drunken ramblings, and at the hours of darkness of the theater a forged of characters has no different possibility than to do exactly that. Ideally they stay inside good artwork. It’s a disgrace that, beautiful because the music in Stereophonic is, the play doesn’t have a lot to say concerning the individuals who make it.

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