Steven Byrnes’ one-person chronicle of the meeting and mating of two male pop music stars has all the accouterments of an excellent production except one a performance. The imaginative staging of director Paul Linke, the excellent musical arrangements and sound of John Given and an attractive set/lighting design by G.B. Guidinger fail to mask Byrnes’ minimal performance skills. Byrnes’ satirical tale follows the rehabilitation-clinic courtship of two self-destructive musicians: British hard-rocker Ian Van Rock and just-out-of-the-closet country and western singer, Bobby Lee.
As they move into not-so-blissful wedded life, they interact with a number of characters, including Lulu Gonzalez (a Latin American gossip columnist), Edith (Ian’s very proper British mom), Sam (Bobby Lee’s redneck former beau) and Earleen (Ian and Bobby’s 16-year-old Valley-girl adopted Chinese daughter). All of these characters are supposed to have definable accents and personalities, but Byrnes fails to execute them with any amount of skill or consistency. His totally unbelievable attempts at being British, Southern, Latin or from the Valley of ebb and flow in the course of the performance. Paul Linke, whose own one-person show (“Time Flies When You’re Alive”) was a landmark in local theater, keeps moving Byrnes about, but he can’t make him into an actor. ….. As satire, “Swinging Wild” never delves below the cliche level as it attempts to skewer such pop culture icons as rock ‘n’ roll, the tabloids, rehab clinics, new-age religion, same-sex marriage and gay parenting. Much more successful are the songs that have been incorporated into the performance, enhanced by John Given’s first-rate pre-recorded orchestrations. One highlight is Bobby Lee’s musical offering to the woman who stole Sam from him (“Lurene, Lurene If I were you I’d use Listerine ‘Cause I know where Sam’s mouth has been”). Guidinger’s scenic/lighting design, which makes excellent use of rear projections, keeps the production visually interesting. In fact, his use of a large, page-turning pop-art fairytale book as a backdrop to the proceedings promises a lot more than the production delivers.