At Performance Works until December 1
Posted on November 23, 2013
In The Romeo Initiative, recently presented at The Cultch, the Communist party trains Markus Richter to be the perfect lover for Karin Maynard based on ‘profiling’ her. In Cool Beans, the predator/prey tables are turned. Patrick (Josh Epstein) coaches lovesick Andi (Katey Hoffman) to get barista Holden (Jay Clift) to fall for her. Although Andi is a kind of Mountain Equipment Co-op kind of girl and an ace pharmacology student at UBC, Patrick persuades her to let her hair down and put on mini shorts. He schools her in Finnish post-punk hard rock and tells her what recreational drugs Holden would want to think she’s using – that is, the same drugs loopy Holden consumes in what, based on his ‘duh’ attitude, would seem copious amounts. (A reference to ‘Churchill’ he takes for a reference to Churchill Senior Secondary). Andi cranks up the heat and he falls for it.
The trouble is, Holden is already attached to Meadow (Gili Roskies), manager of Cool Beans, the coffee shop where Holden works.
Presented by Solo Collective Theatre and directed by Rachel Peake, Cool Beans is a cool new musical and a world premiere written by the multi-talented Anton Lipovetsky (who charmed us last season in the role of Lucio in Bard’s Measure for Measure). Lipovetsky wrote the book, music and lyrics for Cool Beans; in it he pokes fun at – amongst other things – our caffeine obsession.
Set and costume designer as well as props builder Drew Facey presents an ‘alternative’ coffee bar about which Holden says, “We’re popular because we’re not popular”. Definitely not Starbucks. More like Wicked Café. Naturally, the place is all about organic, free trade beans.
Lipovetsky’s music is nicely varied: there are some lovely ballads like “How Do I Let You Go?” sung by Roskies and, in the reprise, by Roskies and Epstein; the Middle Eastern inspired “Dreams of Dubai”, sung by Epstein; and the jumpier “The New You” (Hoffman and Epstein). On opening night there were definitely some gut-clenching flat notes and Hoffman and Roskies’ voices competed – sometimes unsuccessfully – with the piano accompaniment that, otherwise, was splendidly provided by Mishelle Cuttler. Lipovetsky’s music isn’t always easy to sing and the piano was a long way away, at times, from the singer. The singing – for the most part – got better as the show went on.
I know there’s no accounting for taste, but Cool Beans would be stronger – in terms of plot – if we could really believe that smart and studious Andi (“I get a-mazing marks”) and ambitious Meadow would both be so obsessed with dopey Holden who has trouble getting into his own pants.
That aside, the performances are all excellent from Clift who nails verbally challenged Holden (“it’s like you’re, like it’s like, whoa”) through Roskies’ straightforward Gili, Epstein’s sly Patrick and Hoffman’s adorable Andi.
Lipovetsky’s is an intelligent voice for restless, sometimes bewildered, twenty and early thirty-somethings; and for those of us who have been there, done that, it’s an entertaining reminder of the way we were.
Lipovetsky wisely avoids an easy ending; no wedding bells here.
Cool Beans should – and will – find an audience, a younger, hipper audience than, say, The Wizard of Oz caters to. If theatre is to continue to thrive, it’s not just about getting bums in seats; it’s about getting younger bums in seats.
These Beans are fresh!