Review: “RATs:SubwaySongsandStories” at Theaterlab
By Anthony J. Piccione, lead-columnist for OuterStage
Late last year, I had heard a story about a new musical being developed that, according to someone I talked to familiar with the script, believed that it had needed more rewrites before it was ready for production. Yet by the time I heard a workshop production was being presented, I thought the initial premise – a musical based around the lives of subway rats – showed enough promise that it was worth seeing. After all, it’s not as if it could be any worse that the new Cats film adaptation, right?
Well, the show does indeed start off somewhat strong, sticking to its initial amusing premise is a mildly engaging way. However, past the first 10 minutes or so, its downhill from there, as the script steers heavily away from the premise that gave it potential, and instead veers off into an incoherent jumble that’s overly reliant on sexual humor and excessive swearing that gives one the impressive that either this production was aiming to make the Guinness World Records for most instances of the word “fuck” in a theatrical show, or more likely, this was the messy and underdeveloped work of a first-time writer. By the end of the show, when we go from a scene with MTA workers straight to a series of facts stated that leave an unclear message about whether rats are supposed to be good or bad (it mentions poison that is used in the MTA, but also that rats damage peoples property while living in there and can eat their own tails), its clear that there is plenty of room for improvement in the overall plot, to put it kindly. This show is a textbook example of why playwrights should always outline their scripts before writing them, and had this writer done that (if they did, that makes it even worse) perhaps at least a few of the issues in the script could have been avoided.
Staged at Theaterlab, the production showcases a minimalist set, along with completely unnecessary projections that do nothing to add to the story or the theatrical experience. Most of the songs in the show are either completely vapid and unforgettable, or in some cases, show some potential – such as the case of the opening number, or the highly repetitive “Fuck You to the MTA” – but need some changes to the lyrics.
While this young ensemble of five does their best with the material they have, its not enough to save this script, and to change the fact that by the time of the show’s end, the most relatable song in the show was “I Wanna Go Home.”
By the end of the performance, I couldn’t help but be reminded of all the stories I’d heard when the Cats movie came out last year, and how people supposedly enjoyed it better when they were either drunk or on LSD. Perhaps if this show is ultimately lucky enough to return in some incarnation, without any major rewrites, then this would be another example of something that would be better enjoyed while not sober.
Or, perhaps writers should just retire the idea of writing musicals purely based on a specific animal. That might work, too.
RATs:SubwaySongsandStories stars Fara Faidzan, Maiya Pascouche, Claire-Frances Sullivan, Markese McLamb & John Knipsel.
RATs:SubwaySongsandStories was written by Maguire Wilder and directed by Kyle Best, featuring production designer Lucas Degirolamo, producer Maya Singer, associate production designer Amelia Kassing, projections by Madeline Parks, stage manager Sarah Samonte, assistant stage manager Lee Monahan, front of house Jeremy Acosta & crew member Vincent Alvarez.
RATs:SubwaySongsandStories ended its run at Theaterlab on January 26th.