Review: The Other Josh Cohen
By Anthony Chase
Review: The Other Josh Cohen
How was I to know that “The Other Josh Cohen” was just what I needed to boost me into a state of foolish happiness on an otherwise dreary night. The title was unfamiliar, and I was doing my best to buck myself up for whatever came my way, when this quirky little show about a nebbish of a guy named Josh Cohen, wooed me into musical theater euphoria.
As the play begins, Josh’s New York City apartment is being burglarized. The crook takes everything from the clock on the wall to the cake in the fridge, as the audience laughs harder and harder. This is the delight of schadenfreude at the expense of a character we haven’t even met!
When we do meet Mr. Cohen, he’s split in two – our narrator is Josh Cohen, played by Zak Ward, and our protagonist Josh Cohen played by Joseph Donohue III. The former looks back on a very bad year of his life as flashback; the latter lives his absurdly unlucky tribulations, occasionally turning to his future self for insights or advice, which he never receives.
Don’t’ expect “Wicked” or “The Lion King.” This is a very small show, with very modest aspirations, which it exceeds at every level. While Ward and Donohue split the role of Josh Cohen, the other four cast members capably play the numerous other people in Josh’s life. The actors also play the musical instruments.
Solange Gosselin entertainingly plays a large succession of girlfriends, dates, and women who want nothing to do with Josh Cohen. With a charming stage presence and impressive musical theater skills, in her MusicalFare debut, she is a strong addition to Buffalo’s roster of first tier musical theater performers.
Brandon Barry, whose sheer handsomeness is augmented by his expert musicianship, is delightfully and unexpectedly funny, playing a catalog of characters who require him to be a clown. He rises to the occasion with aplomb.
Musical theater veteran Robert Insana is especially winning as the older men in Josh’s life – his landlord, his neighbor, and most hilariously, his father. I spoil nothing by telling you to wait for his performance of “the answering machine announcement.” That’s not a song, it’s a sketch worthy of Bob Newhart.
Theresa Quinn, who doubles as actor and music director, gives her best comic performance ever as everyone from Josh Cohen’s mother, to the other Josh Cohen’s mother, to Neil Diamond. She provides some of the show’s most endearing moments as the other Josh Cohen’s mother -- I know that description of the character will make no sense until you’ve seen the show, but like Narrator Josh Cohen, I won’t be telling you anything that might give the plot away.
Randall Kramer directed the briskly paced and uniformly pleasing production. The versatile set (and light and sound) are by Chris Cavanagh. Costumes are by Kari Drozd.
David Rossmer and Steve Rosen wrote the show, and originally performed it. The evening has the virtue of providing a litany of truths about contemporary life and love. I will offer only one spoiler (that isn’t really a spoiler). Persistence wins out and Josh Cohen will, eventually, find happiness. The route to that goal, however, is delightfully treacherous!