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How to Write a Song 

Unfortunately, the best thing about this solo monologue is the tunes

Wednesday, Apr 7 2004
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What if all you ever wanted was fame -- and you weren't famous? Ira Marlowe's one-man show at the new Off-Market Theater tells the grisly tale of a boy from Virginia who looks like Jackson Browne, learns to play guitar, and keeps plugging away at being a pop musician until he finds himself broke and over 30 in San Francisco, lying about his age to a fifth-tier talent scout. The boy is Marlowe himself, who seems to have wised up just enough to pursue a career in fringe theater. Unfortunately, the best thing about the show is his songs. Marlowe gives what seems like an honest account of his life and troubles; we're meant to laugh and feel sorry. The odd thing is how out of touch he seems with his own emotions. He interacts with video clips of "Weirdness Guy" and "Übermensch" -- the id and superego of his own artistic conscience -- who are so impersonal, obnoxious, loud, and intrusive that I had to grab a stiff drink afterward. When Marlowe sticks to music and animation, though, he's affecting. "Fern-Bar Blues" is a funny bit about failure; "Working for the Russians" and "Ship in a Bottle" are accompanied by whimsical, running-clip-art-style animated shorts -- think of Terry Gilliam's cartoons for Monty Python -- that would make a decent music video. The whole question of wanting fame and not getting it is boring, though. Thousands of talented musicians wind up in the same position, and finding yourself shut out by the music industry is, in the end, not such a stunning disgrace.

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