Bangor Daily News, Tuesday, August 4, 1992

'Narcissus & Echo' takes aim at the dangers of love
by Alicia Anstead

The slings and arrows of love were some pretty dangerous tools back in Cupid's time. If you got caught in a scandalous liaison, you could lose your voice forever, or lose your ability to love anything but your own reflection. In either case, eternity is a little harsh on the old heart.

Jeff Goode and composer Larrance Fingerhut are completely on target about the dangers of love with their romping, risque musical, "Narcissus & Echo" playing through Oct. 11 at the Unusual Cabaret in Bar Harbor.

The plot is lifted from Greek mythology, but written in a 1990s idiom, and done so with hilarity and aplomb. Narcissus, raised among the wood nymphs and convinced he is a female, can't figure out why he isn't attracted to men like the other nymph girls are, and is confused about his frequent desire to drink beer and watch the Olympics. His rejection of the nymph Echo brings upon him the vengeance of the gods, and he falls in love with his own reflection in the waters of a spring where he pines away forever.

Meanwhile, Zeus, who has an answering machine, transforms himself into a can of pitted black olives when his wife, Hera, comes looking for him. Accustomed to her husband's trickery, the modern-day cowgirl Hera packs a can opener to reform her husband, but she can't get to him because the Valley-girlish prattle of Echo detains her. By way of punishment, Hera deprives Echo of speech, except to repeat someone else's words.

All the while, Cupid, who is more of a stand-up comic than the winged god of love, winds the tale, casting arrows and aspersions wherever needed.

Goode's script is at its best clever, and at its worst corny, but he proves himself a romantic despite the blatantly unromantic stances of the characters. Cupid, for instance, controls love affairs with "Formula A: Amour Liqour" and "Formula B: Indifference." And comes out with such jaded insights as "Some people follow their dreams; the rest of us take what we get."

But, finally, Goode makes us feel compassion for the mixed-up emotions of the characters and understanding for the mixed-up emotions of humans. He does so with the winning combination of humor and cynicism.

Fingerhut brings equally rich sophistication to the musical numbers. The opening solo, "Love Me Tonight," is a torch song filled with steaming sensuality, and "Cupid's Song/Finale," which professes delightful witticisms like "When you find a river that runs straight and smooth, it's a canal," is as rousing as a closing number can get. Other notable scores include the groovy duet "Our Song," the combination soft-shoe, blues, and patter song "No More Men," and the country- western you-done-me-wrong song "When will the Flowers be for Me?" (sung by Hera to her two- timing hubby).

Director Gina Kaufmann upholds her reputation for sharp direction with this piece, particularly with such a bold and talented cast (which alternates depending on the night). Michael Graziano, as the sexually confused Narcissus, sparkles in this demanding role, which moves from innocent and loving to cold and self-absorbed. Jill Nacke, both as an actor and singer, is endlessly entertaining and resourceful as Echo. Cheryl Snodgrass, as the insatiable Daphne, gives a grand and lusty performance, and Gary Tucker, as the narrating Cupid, is powerfully funny. Melissa Hughes' Hera is somewhat stiff compared to the flamboyancy of the other actors, but Hughes has the attack of a seasoned actor, and that carries her in this show.