When David Rossmer's character opens "The Other Josh Cohen" by walking in from the aisle way of the theater smiling like a Mormon, I thought the audience was in for a "Hunter Parrish in Godspell" level of manic enthusiasm. It was only a matter of time before said enthusiasm wore thin, whether it would be 15 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour into the show.
The good news...that moment never came. In fact, I felt reprieved that "The Other Josh Cohen," now open at the SoHo Playhouse, put in a noticeable effort in striking an off-beat charm and humor, but knew when to stop before the show, already farce-like, became too much. Of the many things TOJC is, "easy to watch" is one of the qualities I responded to the most. Hey, a guy has to unwind after all...
The bad news, unfortunately, is that the music numbers are a little light. Inoffensive while watching and possibly entertaining at the time, but in the light of day, I can't remember a single musical lyric, let alone a number. Couple that with a simple plot (Josh Cohen is down on his luck and listens to a Neil Diamond CD), and there is not much room to work within the show's parameters.
But those turn out to be minor complaints as Rossmer and Steve Rosen make the most of what they have. They are clearly goofball buddies having a blast with the production they star in, wrote, composed and casted. Their deft hand for ironic and sarcastic comedy is sufficient enough, but it's the pathos arising from the midway point that is both a welcome surprise from a writing standpoint and a great thematic fit at that. It's always a joy for me when I am entertained by a production and it turns out to be a lot (okay, a little) smarter then it lets on.
The fact that they keep me intrigued and chuckling often, as the present/narrative Josh Cohen and a past Josh Cohen respectively, is to Rossmer and Rosen's credit. Despite playing the same character of different times, they do interact often and that allows them to delve into the meta arsenal and Rossmer's hilarious (kind-of) omniscient narrating hijinks. It's one of the few directing choices that really pays off. Above all, they both feel like they really ARE channeling the same character (aside from the styling) right down to their dancing and mannerisms. It's impossible not to be endeared by their performances because both of them were that great. Kate Wetherhead, playing a myriad of supporting characters, also turns out a stunning performance fleeting through costumes, wigs and dialects without a hair or syllable out of place.
It may not be a wholly satisfying gem or a groundbreaking piece of theatre, but The Other Josh Cohen is everything else a show aspires to be and when it is so well-rendered (music numbers aside), it hits the spot as far as a night out at the theater goes. In fact, this show is an indication that Rossmer and Rosen should collaborate more often - I'll get the petition and investor interest going.
Photo Credit: Carol Rosseg