The Sound of One, Dolphinback Theatre Company, at National Pastime Theater. When this musical by Dolphinback members Ryan McCall and Matt McGaughey begins with the five cast members beaming broadly, holding hands, and playfully nudging one another, it's difficult not to groan in anticipation of a syrupy coming-of-age story. By the end, though, this production thwarts our expectations, as a postcollege clique gradually implodes, strained by its members' growing pains.
Struggling writer Joe (Scott Haden) and career-driven Becky (Elise Kauzlaric) are the "perfect couple" struggling to make their relationship work. Religiously fervent Charles (Erik Carlson) has lost faith and perspective, while David (McGaughey as a waiter aspiring to teach) offers his friend support and love--with dramatic repercussions. The fifth buddy is pot-smoking slacker Steve (Jacob Knoll), who's funny and loyal but whose stake in the proceedings is undeveloped.
It's not the only weakness in a script that's too slow in the first act and swings to melodrama in the second. The show reveals genuine promise nonetheless. It avoids the obvious ending and takes on weighty issues in well-crafted songs that range from pleas for love to expressions of frustration at job options. Director Matt Wallace has assembled some talented singers whose characters seem real people rather than types. A tiny stage often hinders the movement but never interferes with this production's expressiveness.