Joe Iconis keeps almost breaking out. Producing theater Ars Nova has given the writer-composer, his regular director John Simpkins and their designers plenty of room to breathe on Western-themed tuner “Bloodsong of Love.” But the rowdy hipster cowboy rock show needs a firm hand more than it needs apparently unlimited subsidies for fake blood. Venue has a rep for backing offbeat material by and for ultrahip youngsters, but “Bloodsong” doesn’t have the unity of purpose of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s “Boom” and it doesn’t have the frantic energy that drove Nick Jones’ “Jollyship the Whiz-Bang,” both also Ars Nova alums.
“Every pint of blood is served with a sidecar of irony,” laments the Sam Elliott-style narrator (Jason “SweetTooth” Williams). “But not here. Here, we take our blood straight.” Would that it were so, SweetTooth. “Bloodsong” is practically marinated in irony, from Michelle Eden Humphrey’s Williamsburg-fashionable cowpoke and hooker getups to the complimentary ponchos handed out to aud members to guard them from spraying plasma.
Eric William Morris is very good as the show’s straight man, a no-nonsense cowpoke on a mission to get his gal (M. K. Lawson) back from dastardly kazooist (yes, really) Lo Cocodrilo (Jeremy Morse) with the help of his trusty sidekick Banana (Lance Rubin). Most of the performers are culled from Iconis’ crew of regulars, and a couple — especially Rubin and Morse — manage to transcend the sophmoric script.
Iconis seems to need two things before he can progress: a book writer and a producer who will veto selected members of his posse. Iconis’ songs are catchy, as always, and the show’s concept is solid. Thematically, though, it’s flat. “Bloodsong” is an engaging mess with a lot of heart, but a mess all the same.
Michael Schweikardt’s set gets the job done and has some cute tricks to it (the recessed treadmill is a good one). It seems odd to call Jennifer Werner’s contribution to the show “choreography,” since it’s mostly staring down the aud and bobbing. Overall, tech aspects give the feel of big-league money in small-time hands, as does much of the show.