In an ideal world, there would be a little side street — call it Vanity Row — discreetly tucked away somewhere in this city and lined with theaters devoted to the presentation of vanity productions. Narcissistic shows like “Marcy in the Galaxy,” an insipid musical written and scored by Nancy Shayne and featuring a wannabe artist who has wasted her life deluding herself about her talent, really belong on Vanity Row. And companies like the normally visionary Transport Group really shouldn’t be wasting their time on them.
There probably isn’t a creative alive who hasn’t at one time or another felt like an undiscovered genius who just can’t catch a break. But the ones who make a life-long career out of being unappreciated artists — like Marcy (Donna Lynne Champlin), a 39-year-old typist who insists she is “in the arts” — are deadly.
These are the people you avoid like the plague when you spot them at the Galaxy Diner on Ninth Avenue, scribbling in their notebooks and whining about the acting callbacks they didn’t get or the music grants they were denied. They are the ones too dedicated to their art to demean themselves with a straight job — but not too proud to hit you up for a loan to pay for new head shots.
Instead of running from a bore like Marcy, Shayne has enshrined her on stage in her own boring musical. Since the melodic, but monotonous songs all sound alike, the show is a bit like an extended musical monologue in which Marcy repeatedly asserts her claim of being a talented artist, while slowly revealing the miserable reality of her life.
The depressing mise en scene for these utterly conventional revelations is a nearly empty Greek diner on New Year’s Day — a Hopper-like hell in Sandra Goldmark’s two-tiered, horizontally-scored set design. The generic waiter (properly underplayed and nicely sung by Jonathan Hammond) has the best take on this sad joint (in the song “January First”) when he admits he doesn’t even know his regular customers’ names.
Nothing much happens to lighten up the scene, and the unimaginative staging by Jack Cummings III (all-sitting-all-the-time) does little to dramatize Marcy’s self-regarding narrative. Some relief is offered by old friends Dorothea (Janet Carroll) and Joyce (Mary-Pat Green), neighborhood characters who chatter and snipe, but aren’t nearly funny enough to be a genuine distraction. Marcy’s doting mother, Peppy (Teri Ralston), makes an appearance, cloying in its sentimentality.
With no action in sight, the only hint of psychodrama occurs when Marcy’s estranged twin sister, Sharon (sweetly sung, but grimly played by Jenny Fellner), materializes to bring the myth-spinning Marcy back to earth. But when the bitter and selfish heroine is so unlikable to begin with (no fault of poor Champlin), the origins of her misery are of no more interest than her ultimate fate.