The problem of finding the right life mate in the dating scene continues today, just as it has in the era before cell phones and social media took hold. The musical, “The Evolution of Mann,” with catchy music and lyrics by Douglas J. Cohen, book and lyrics by Dan Elish and direction by Joe Barros, explores the frustrations of the lead character, Henry Mann, in his quest for Ms. Right.
The audience is very close to his angst in the intimate theater The Cell. Henry, played and sung earnestly by Max Crumm, shares living quarters with his lesbian pal Gwen, pleasingly portrayed by Leslie Hiatt. Gwen gives Henry stern prodding to overcome his hesitancies and go after potential relationships. But Henry has his problems, and so has Gwen, who gets phone calls from a friend who keeps leaving the message “I want to do you on the dining room table.” Gwen also needs to solve her romantic problems.
The third member of the cast is the very versatile Allie Trimm, who handles a variety of roles with panache, including different type dating targets Sheila, Tamar, Christine and even Henry’s prodding mother. The cast members go a long way toward making the central quest enjoyable, especially since we are practically on stage with them.
The songs that tell the cumulative story are the best part of the show, making more of an impression than the requisite dialogue. Behind a curtain a three piece band does well by Cohen’s score—Tomoya Aomori on cello, Darren Lucas on guitar and Vadim Feichtner on piano.
Henry partakes in most of the numbers, whether soloing with “She’s My Wife” and “Keeping My Eye on the Ball,” or teaming with the two women in “The Year of the Weddings” and “Settling Down,” and also “The Tale of the Other” and the erotic “Hard” (with Christine). Trimm takes the spotlight soloing as Christine with “It’s Only a First Date” and Hiatt as Gwen makes the most of her solo number, “The Unromantic Things.”
“The Evolution of Man” could use a bit of tightening. It is only 90 minutes without an intermission but Henry’s plight and searching begins to feel over-extended. However, the geniality of the cast is steadily pleasing and there is a tidy ending that you may or may not see coming. At The Cell, 338 West 23rd Street. Reviewed October 17, 2018.