Breathe | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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BREATHE, Bailiwick Repertory. Breathe--a new musical by Dan Martin and Michael Biello, partners in love and art--is an apt choice for Bailiwick's summerlong gay play festival. A likable and often lovely series of seven scenes told in two dozen songs, it sums up scores of lives in sometimes familiar vignettes. A child-seeking lesbian couple implore their gay best friend to be a sperm donor, a priest finds a new calling in a New Age colleague, an angry gay poet's grandmother teaches him to forgive, a teenager's games turn life-size when she falls in love, a young man dying of AIDS is loved to the end, a gay-lesbian pair of friends heal one another, and a busy goddess teaches a gay man how to reach his inner female.

There's sentiment and spirituality to spare here, but the compensation is Martin's lush melodies and Biello's fully felt lyrics. David Zak's terrific cast easily handle both the touchy-feely emotions and the daunting vocals. Especially strong are Paul Alessandro's "These Simple Words," a soaring solo that conveys the priest's spiritual and physical anguish; Michael Elder's pardonably narcissistic "In My Body"; and the deathbed reconciliation "I Forgive You" sung by Andy Rabensteine and Karen Doerr with heart and soul. Jeremy Ramey's musical direction couldn't be more faithful. --Lawrence Bommer

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