'If/Then' Takes a Deep Dive Into The World of 'What If'

By Richard Green
In Culture

There was a definite generational divide in the audience when Jackie Burns and Anthony Rapp opened the St. Louis leg of their “sliding doors” romance on the current national tour of “If/Then,” playing at The Fabulous Fox through March 27. Most of the audience was plainly delighted with the fun, big city rush of a young woman imagining two very different romantic paths for her life—one of the life she leads, and one she might have led.

Anthony Rapp and Jackie Burns (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Anthony Rapp and Jackie Burns (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Jackie Burns sings the hell out of a long list of sometimes forgettable songs (she’s funny and smart, too). And Mr. Rapp, famous for “Rent,” makes his load of lyrics seem light and easy—though I was offended on his behalf, during a scene change, indignantly thinking, “That’s Anthony Rapp!  You can’t make Anthony Rapp move scenery!”

But move it he does, and thanks to a lot of beautiful teamwork, the whole show unfolds like an endless fractal zoom-in, a hundred times in its two-and-a-half hours, as Elizabeth dives deeper and deeper into things that might have been. It’s a great tutorial for men as to why many women feel things so deeply.

A (slightly) older man told me he was confused in following the the story of two different “Elizabeths.”  But his own female companion quickly explained that when our heroine is “wearing glasses, she’s Beth,” and when she’s not, “she’s Liz.” It didn’t matter to me:  I was just too delighted (and distracted) by something other than a straight-line narrative.

So “if” you don’t mind a little playful, sometimes elusive storytelling, “then” you’ll be fine.

Tamara Gray is first-rate as Elizabeth’s lesbian pal; and Matthew Hydzik lends romance as one of Elizabeth’s beaux, Josh. Another potential lover is very nicely played by Daren A. Herbert, elegantly complicated as her boss.

Overall the writing (by Brian Yorkey) is detailed and realistic, but those qualities don’t always make for the most lilting of lyrics—although a compelling score by Tom Kitt easily makes these musical soliloquies both hard-charging and beautiful.

Michael Greif directed, with choreography by Larry Keigwin.

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