A young poet uncovers huge family secrets in the melodramatic, often predictable 210 Amlent Avenue. Written by Beck Goldberg (book) and Karl Hinze (music and lyrics) and directed by Samantha Saltzman, this new musical begins with the melancholy number “Here in This House,” in which we begin to unravel the characters’ unique relationships to the titular Hamptons property. For starters, Judah (Zal Owen), has returned to this house shortly after the death of his parents on a mission to learn more about his parents’ relationship to its owners, the Jordan family. Mrs. Jordan (Robin Skye), a well-known actress plotting a return to the stage as a writer, has just been widowed. Judah spent his summers vacationing there, and looks at the house with nostalgia and open-hearted possibility. On the other hand, Mrs. Jordan views it with the resentment of a prisoner. The supporting characters likewise have unique relationships to the house. Leslie is a mousy, Cinderella-like nanny hoping to break free and finish her education degree. Sarah is Judah’s girlfriend, looking to score an audition with Mrs. Jordan. And neighbors Murphy and Claire have dreams of owning the place themselves.
With more nuance and a deeper exploration of these characters backgrounds and relationships, this musical could succeed as an enticing, character-driven show. As is, there is a lot left unclear. For example, we hardly get a clear picture of why Judah is so obsessed with his parents’ past, or why Leslie feels such an obligation towards Mrs. Jordan. When Judah finally discovers Mrs. Jordan’s secret (you can probably guess it now) and gets in the way of her financial and emotional freedom as a widow, she dangles his girlfriend’s acting career as collateral. However, by this point, Judah has already fought with Sarah and warmed up to Leslie, so we’re not left with much of a balancing act here. And the drastic measures taken by Mrs. Jordan and Leslie in the final scenes are even more outlandish and contrived, leaving us cold to their struggles.
The cast of 210 Amlent Avenue. Photo by Michael Kushner
210 Amlent Avenue succeeds most during character-centric, light-hearted numbers, with much proof to Hinze’s musical ability. Some standout numbers include “Making Sense,” in which Judah and Leslie share their love for clarifying literature, and “How We Stay Together,” when Claire and Murphy blithely celebrate their strong, affectionate marriage. Murphy and Claire are themselves highlights, due in part to Steven Hauck’s amd Nikki Van Cassele’s charismatic ease, as well as the character’s natural optimism. The musical could also easily be developed as a vehicle for the actress playing Mrs. Jordan; Robin Skye does an excellent portrayal here as a vulnerable, hopeful, yet authoritative and cold matriarch. Mrs. Jordan past earns further probing; perhaps time shifts throughout the show can energize the otherwise languid, banal Hamptons drama.
210 Amlent Avenue played at the 2015 New York Musical Theater Festival and ran from July 9-14.