Hollywood Fringe 2018
Richard Levinson plays selections from his long song-writing career,
Following last year’s hit show “12 Bars”, Richard Levinson returns to the fringe with another selection of well-crafted songs from his vast back catalog. “Personal Privilege and True Tales from Tap City” is less obviously themed than its predecessor, but probably more representative of his forty year output.
The opener is “Jesus is a-comin'”, which sets a jokey and irreverent tone, this is followed by “That’s Our Vlad”, the theme song to a fictional sit-com about Vlad the impaler. Lulled into thinking we are in for fifty-minutes of pure comedy, we now get the rug pulled from under us, “The Rosenbergs” and “The Winner” are both powerful reminders of un-funny reality, but we’ve just gotten used to laughing at witty rhymes, so we keep doing that. There is a tension now between form and content that produces a discomfort in the listener, we laugh, then maybe feel we shouldn’t, then congratulate ourselves for recognizing juxtaposition when we hear it.
Accompanying himself on piano, Levinson introduces each song with a gentle scripted explanation of how or why it was written, through these clues, we start to see the life that has been lived.
There are a couple of songs about dreams not working out, my favorite being “I Shoot Food”, sung in the character of a would-be serious photographer who now makes burgers look irresistible.
There are no romantic love songs, but there are beautifully honest tributes to both his mother and his daughter which reassure us that he’s not flippant about everything.
“Rise, Monkeys, Rise” is a rousing call-to-arms which makes good use of the fact that species rhymes with feces.
After seventeen songs we think we have the measure of the man, but then he reminds us how he actually made a living by giving us, as an encore, a Jazzercise jingle devoid of any irony or subtlety, this is now in itself subtly ironic.
Levinson is an engagingly diffident front-man, his singing and playing primarily serve the song rather than the audience, but in the intimate Broadwater Studio, that’s fine, it’s like he’s playing for himself and we’re just lucky enough to be there. To anybody interested in song-writing, or the human condition, I highly recommend this show. GUY PICOT