Theatre Too’s retooled ‘Unmade Bed’ is alive with songs but short on story

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

SONGS IN THE BASEMENT  |  Wagley, Breckenridge and Floyd sing beautifully, but there’s not much story in Theatre Too’s ‘Songs from an Unmade Bed.’ (Photo by Ken Birdsell)
SONGS IN THE BASEMENT | Wagley, Breckenridge and Floyd sing beautifully, but there’s not much story in Theatre Too’s ‘Songs from an Unmade Bed.’ (Photo by Ken Birdsell)

Theatre Three’s Theatre Too
2800 Routh Street, Suite 168.
Through Oct. 3. $20.

He might call it a song cycle, but Mark Campbell’s Songs from an Unmade Bed, now at Theatre Three’s Theatre Too space, is mostly a dizzying effect of music and theater. Written as a one-man show, director Terry Dobson has reworked it into a troika of actors playing nameless characters anchored by Gary Floyd as a bisexual in a relationship with both a straight woman (Patty Breckenridge) and gay man (Christopher Wagley). At about an hour long, it never has time to lag, but it is enough to confuse.

The story of the love triangle is told entirely through the course of 18 songs written by lyricist Campbell but composed from a number of pedigreed composers including Jake Heggie, Emmy nominee Lance Horn and ‘90s alt-rocker Duncan Sheik.

Floyd plays a fickle fellow torn between his affections for another man and a woman. The least showy of the roles, Floyd does the everyman role justice with equal measures of sex appeal and humor. Through the songs “Man in the Starched White Shirt,” “He Plays the Cello” and “Exit Right,” we get his character is an actor who can’t play the stringed instrument and he’s a sort of player, but with heart. Floyd cares for his man but lusts after his woman.

Perhaps stemming from a one-man origins, the only character we ever really know is Floyd’s. His lovers sing about and to him, offering insight to their desperation for his attention. This bias is humorous, even charming, but doesn’t give the background needed to make me care about any of them. There were moments when I asked myself, “I need to know this because…?” Pathetic is too strong to describe these characters, but their drawn-out longing elicits more thoughts of “get a life” than “Awww!”

Each song depicts a vignette lives of relationships but it’s frustrating, if not difficult. Songs sometimes feels like a trek through knee-high mud — tough but doable.

Through all that, the cast shines. Breckenridge runs with her role as an emotionally starved sexpot, playing the funny stuff with the precision of a TV sitcom (in a good way) and subtly stealing scenes with a look or inflection. It’s like she’s pulling the tablecloth from under a dinner set that remains in place. When she sings, she conjures Disney princesses, but then she would lay on thick shtick in “Florence” and “Spring.”

Wagley makes a strong local stage debut. A bear of a man, he has astonishing beauty in his voice that added to his presence (who knew Floyd was a bear chaser?). He kills in the uppity “The Other Other Woman” with funny physicality and is able to give great nuance — like Breckenridge, he can work a quick look to maximum effect.  At times though, he almost sashayed over the top with his fey approach to the character who came close to being a caricature.

Songs’ humor is worthwhile and the talent buoys the show, along with an amazing three-piece orchestra that sounded a whole lot larger. But if you’re scratching your head after it ends, the best advice is to let the story go and remember the good times.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010