But the show bombs in the music department. The cast's fine efforts notwithstanding, the melodies are unmemorable and the attempts to tug on the audience's heartstrings (such as in the ballad "Jenny") are tailor-made piss breaks.
Were it not for the Hallmark Card music, Gunmetal Blues might stand as a piece of legitimate television and film criticism. It might also stand as a model of what theater can sometimes be—pop culture's judge, not its imitator.
Probably the model will go unnoticed. As theater continues to struggle with its relevance and reaches out to younger audiences through more visually oriented spectacle, one can't help thinking that the theater community will sabotage what makes its medium so singular: its ability to rely on stimuli—on poetry and big ideas—other than visual. To employ a cliché, aping film and TV may help theater win the occasional skirmish (Rent, anyone?), but such a strategy is unlikely to win the war.
On the Jump at South Coast Repertory's Mainstage, 655 Town Center Dr., (714) 708-5500. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m. Through June 27. $28-$43; Gunmetal Blues at Laguna Playhouse's Moulton Theater, 606 Laguna Canyon Rd., (949) 497-ARTS. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. Through June 20. $31-$38.