Title character of “Jackson C. Frank Living Party w / Special Guests, From the New Light Theater Project, is a musical footnote: A troubled artist, Frank recorded his only album when he was in 2265, in 1965, produced by Paul Simon. Frank died at the age of 56, after a life marked by tragic accidents, mental illness, and the stubbornness of the homeless.
I’ve never heard of him – don’t realize he wrote beautiful “Blues Run the Game,” Covered by Sandy Denny, John Mayer and Counting Crows, among many others – and initially playwright Michael Aguirre created Frank as a kind of theatrical answer to the film’s fictional folk singer. “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
But yes, Frank and his music are real, and we get to know a little more about him in this new streaming production, which is presented by him 59E59 Theater.
“Listening party”, however, is not a traditional Bio-play, and Aguirre is not found in Frank’s life and artistry weeds. The composer is simultaneously central and peripheral in a show – which is essentially in the present day – it is more interested in how music can foster personal relationships and, perhaps, a sense of community.
For Alan (Aguirre), listening to the albums was something he and his older brother, Rob (Sean Phillips), performed as they grew up: they would buy a new CD every Friday, go home and get the whole thing in order. Play. Aguirre was largely inspired by his own childhood, as Alan remembers those days and how he helped bond with Rob. Now he tries to do the same with the audience as we all listen to Frank’s self-titled album at the same time.
The show includes links to music on various platforms including Spotify and YouTube, and at regular intervals, Allen instructs us to press “play” on a specific song. We see him listening, and then return to Alan’s memories of Rob growing up in the shadows. In the end, we have primarily learned that Alan is the white man’s straightforward man with white bread for the esoteric free spirit of Robb, who is not all that much through insight.
At one point, Allen mentions how Kanye West Invited a few select people to Wyoming In 2018, his album “Ye” basked in the glory. But that type of event was a more hyped launch than the listening side, creating a highly controlled environment in which information flowed in only one way – as in this play, since Aguirre and director Sarah Norris are supportive at the moment, And we are following it with their signs.
Alan has written about Alan’s life, with special guests of the title – Paul Simon (William Phelps), the old hippie Grandma Woodstock (Dana Martin) and the brothers’ mother (Bethany Geraghty) – especially since. Whatever the great imports are adding up. The illustrations are rather cartoon. Aguirre is interested in the concept of an older way of sharing music in a more organic, possibly other way than posting an online game.
Allen feels that those CDs remain a conflation of his brotherhood, so when Rob goes missing, Alan goes back to his old listening habits and, perhaps, indirectly, to our present – when was the last time you were on an album. Was sitting together in its entirety and order?
But did Alan and Rob know each other well? It looks increasingly like they weren’t there at all, so Ellen’s fixation on her listening sides seems like an exercise in secluded apathy – an issue Aguirre skirt, probably because it would be that someone else would share art. But there is no special light.
Jackson C. Frank Listening Party w / Special Guest
Through April 11; newlighttheaterproject.com