“Souvenir” of musical past

Intimacy is the main aspect of the cozy FlynnSpace, which played a key role in the success of its most recent production, “Souvenir.” The performance starred Carl J. Danielsen as the narrator Cosmé McMoon, an aging pianist and former composer. Nancy Johnston was his partner on stage as the captivating and confounding Florence Foster-Jenkins. Set in the 1930s, “Souvenir” recounts the true story of Mrs. Foster-Jenkins, an eccentric elder socialite with a love for music. Believing herself to be a gifted soprano, she insists on throwing annual charity balls and she enlists the help of Cosmé McMoon to play piano and act as a vocal coach. As he and the audience soon find out, Mrs. Foster-Jenkins is an absolutely terrible singer, to the point where she inspires hysterics in others. Regardless, she becomes wildly popular and successful, producing records and selling out concert halls, and eventually performing at Carnegie Hall itself. Stephen Temperley wrote the two-character play, initially showcased on off-Broadway, in homage to a truly intriguing real- life character.It was hilarious, endearing, heartbreaking and inspiring. The dialogue was engaging and kept the audience alert.  Hardly anyone could have cared that there was only one small set change, and that the entire play involved only two people. The simplicity of set and costume change, as well as the lack of any particularly distracting lighting or other special effects, allowed the focus to be on the strongest part of this play: the depth of the characters and their unique relationships.The performance was flawless, with an implied rapport between the audience and the narrator. Johnston was a gem as she captivated the audience with her complete earnestness and grace. Mrs. Foster-Jenkins managed to be both hilarious in her vocal inability and admirable in her passion for music and her complete self-confidence. Danielsen was an excellent narrator, engaging with the audience fully as he recounted the story. Pauses for monologue would often leave the audience laughing uproariously, whispering and engaging with the story on stage from their seats. It was a favorable reaction by any standards. The actual performance space was a key part of the play’s intimacy. The FlynnSpace provides a three-sided seating arena around the performance floor, so that the audience feels as though they are in the same room as the actors. This was essential in  “Souvenir’s” successful interaction with the audience, without breaking the fourth wall.     The lack of separation between viewer and performer leaves little to be desired in the way of audience immersion.