Bed & Sofa

Original Off-Broadway Cast, 1996 (Varese Sarabande) 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) A stylized, three-character “silent movie opera” by composer Polly Pen and playwright Lawrence Klavan, Bed & Sofa premiered just over a decade after Pen’s avant-garde Goblin Market. Like that show, it was presented Off-Broadway by the Vineyard Theatre, was directed by André Ernotte, and was showered with awards and nominations. Based on the 1927 Soviet film Tretya meshchanskaya by Abram Room and Victor Shklovsky, the piece centers on a married couple that invites the husband’s homeless army buddy to crash indefinitely on the sofa in their tiny flat. When the husband leaves town on business, his wife and friend embark on a passionate affair. Returning to find himself displaced in the bed, the husband winds up on the sofa. For a time, the resulting ménage à trois works pretty well, but then it’s beset by conflicts such as how to deal with the woman’s pregnancy and the mystery of which guy is the sire.  Eventually, the woman discovers that her new man is as flawed as the old one, and she departs, leaving both sofa and bed to the men. Pen is often accused of lacking a flair for melody, but here she delivers a stunning score with dulcet arias that owe a debt to Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, and Russian folk tunes.  With supervision by Ernotte and musical director Alan Johnson, Terri Klausner gives the wife earthiness and vigor, while Michael X. Martin as her spouse and Jason Workman as the interloper complete an ideally balanced ensemble.  — Charles Wright