When singer-songwriter Sam arrives at his partner Brenda’s apartment with guitar in hand on Christmas Eve, he hasn’t come caroling. Besides, for a man with two divorces, a history of on-the-road philandering, and several appearances in family court, a rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful” would seem somewhat hypocritical. Rather he’s come calling at 2 a.m. because he’s written a new song and needs Brenda to supply the hook. He sings his latest creation, whose lyrics include such cheery holiday sentiments as “We’ve both been beaten blindly by the elements of love.” “It’s very serious,” Brenda pronounces, “tortured.”
Like Sam’s song, Seth Zvi Rosenfeld’s Everythings Turning Into Beautiful, the final production of the New Group’s season, is also self-serious and tortured, and in need of a hook. This two-hander features brave performances by Daphne Rubin-Vega as Brenda and Malik Yoba as Sam, but all their glissandos and tremolos never resolve into a cohesive melody. Rosenfeld hasn’t scripted fully rounded characters so much as a series of heightened emotional moments that don’t quite add up to personalities. Few of us can boast utterly coherent dispositions, but unless we suffer from several ailments in the DSM, we rarely move from affectionate to wrathful to fearful to coy within the space of a few moments.
Director Carl Forsman, who helmed 2004’s Sin: A Cardinal Deposed, has certainly bred comfort and fearlessness in his actors, but he hasn’t much smoothed the script’s abrupt movements. Rubin-Vega excels in her character’s vulnerable moments, while Yoba makes the most of Sam’s bravado, a talent unsurprising in a man who has also founded the Malik Yoba National Theatre Company. Though Rubin-Vega seemed sore-throated at the press performance, they sing together suitably well. If Jimmie James’s songs seem awfully earnest for a pair trying to crack the pop charts, they are not unaffecting. But if the actors and director want, like Brenda, “big things. I want all things. I want the cake and to eat it too and to not get fat,” they won’t find it in this script.