Theater Review: ‘Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope’ at Encores Off-Center at City Center

By Jonathan Spira on 27 July 2018
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The third and final musical in the Encores Off Center Series at City Center, “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope,” completes the trilogy of shows for the season that have a theme but no real plot.

The first – “Songs for a New World,” Jason Brown’s brilliant 1995 opus – was a revue that repeatedly teased us with a plot, almost like a false cadence. The second, “Gone Missing,” served more as a testament to the late composer Michael Friedman with its theme of loss.

The Encores presentation, unlike its Broadway production in 1972, has been condensed into 75 minutes and one act, opening with a new and rather moving poem, “Universe in Mourning,” by its author Micki Grant This sets the tone for the rest of the evening as the show examines the black community in the United States.

Using a mixture of gospel, soul, jazz, rock, and calypso, the show looks at every-day topics ranging from psychotherapy to tenements to slavery. Performed in segments, it all kind of gels, albeit with two exceptions: a supposed riot that apparently required participants to don a beret and the first part of the church segment, which seemed to be going nowhere quickly but was soon revived in the segment’s second half.

The entire ensemble was brilliant but two performers in particular – Aisha de Haas and Wayne Pretlow – merit special mention for the range and powerful rendering.

THE DETAILS

Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope
Limited engagement through July 28, 2018
New York City Center
131 W 55th Street
New York, N.Y. 10019
Runtime: one hr. and 15 min.
www.nycitycenter.org

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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