Love versus emotional baggage: It’s the tried-and-true showdown at the heart of so much romantic comedy, and in the right combination, it can be a winning place to start. A Second Chance, Ted Shen’s new musical now playing at the Public, draws on this convention, but though it’s sweet, it doesn’t go beyond the conventional.
Handsome, successful Dan (Brian Sutherland) lost his wife only months ago, so when he meets the charming Jenna (Diane Sutherland) at a dinner party, he’s not ready to date. Jenna, meanwhile, just finished a rough divorce, and she’s looking for new love. Dan’s cute, but she wants someone upbeat, not a grieving widower.
You can guess what happens next: a little dating, a little soul-baring, some breaking up and making up. Polished projections fade in and out, following Dan and Jenna across a tourist guidebook’s New York: MOMA, martinis, Central Park in the snow. (We also visit their magazine-ready homes: It’s a little hard to pity the travails of people who own their own brownstones.)
What doesn’t happen, though, is anything unexpected. The plot is more sketch than story, and the rhyming lyrics rarely provide a surprising turn of phrase. Both performers are sympathetic, but this second chance at love makes a forgettable first impression.