Wouldn’t all theater artists love to know what we’re thinking while we watch the stuff they put on? Transport Group artistic director Jack Cummings III has had the ingenious notion of asking 28 writers and composers to imagine our thoughts, and then commandeered a cast of 47 to play us, on a stage so crammed with theater seating that there’s no room for them to take a curtain call at the end. You wouldn’t expect anything prepared by so many hands to have a consistent flavor or quality, and The Audience is indeed erratic in both departments, veering from dull to brilliant and from sharply observant to woozily abstruse, in less time than it takes to call, “Places.”
Cummings keeps the focus switching from one set of theatergoers to another with reasonable speed, but he might have done a little more judicious pruning: Two quarreling gay couples and two cases of quasi-incest are a little much for one average house. I wish, too, that the hypothetical show they watch were something more challenging than what seems to be a blend of Company and Falsettoland. Still, The Audience is full of favorite performers, and a few of its songs are likely to stay around; Michael John LaChiusa’s finale number, in which the assembled throng sings to the playwright (who’s among them), “I am the show you cannot write,” is genuinely moving.