Give Me A Break provides a time machine ride back to the 1970s at its musical seediest. It stars the Pulsar-5, sort of a Fleetwood-Mac five-piece with sexy and wild Markie Markham (Tori Hudson) in the Stevie Nicks lead vocalist role. Like their inspiration, the esprit décor among band members at this point has pretty much esprit’d and went.
The band--two lead girls with three supporting guys--comprises naïve twenty-somethings who long for careers in Rock Music! The girls are gifted, smart and pretty. Meanwhile, what the boys lack in talent, they make up for in ego and lust for the big times.
The band is tired of its rotation of gigs at 70s Dallas music venues. (Old favorites Nick’s Uptown and the Greenville Bar and Grill receive shoutouts during the opener “Rockin Machine.”) Their hapless ‘manager’ and drummer, Sal (Stuart Charles Neef), thinks he’s found the key to opportunity in the Las Vegas Casino scene. He knows the break is the real deal because his transvestite drug dealer promises to introduce him to Vegas shaker and mover Louie Lazzard, played convincingly by Mark-Brian Sonna.
Told through the eyes of its band members, the story of Pulsar 5 unfolds, revealing the aspirations of well-defined characters who can’t wait to step on each other to get to the top, maybe even into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, which will probably open in a couple of decades.
We learn that lead singer Markie is not in search of sex and drugs after each gig; she’s looking for someone to fill the hole she was left with after tragedy separated her from her soulmate. Julia (Emily Murphy), the band’s songwriter, thinks she has talent and waits for that notion to be confirmed in an application response from Julliard. Her boyfriend and resident snake, guitar badass Billy (Quinn Angell), cares only about himself, and tries to manipulate Julia to write him the song that will make him a big star, pleading roughly with her to “Give Me A Break.” Julia, meanwhile, only tolerates Billy and his cheating ways because of her own insecurities.
As relations in the band stagnate and fall apart, three ghosts of rock ’n’ roll pay visits and offer advice. The audience learns to be careful whom to listen to, and to never trust a rock star wannabe.
Gritty depictions of rock music in the 70s include drugs, which are plentiful, sex and unwanted sexual consequences, and sleazy music industry types. Fortunately, mock bong hits and mock joint smoking are more plentiful than the unhappy, one-sided sex scenes.
In a highly-charged moment, a near legitimate rape takes place after Markie helps herself to some of Billy’s PCP-dusted pot. By this point the audience has already seen Billy the snake wake Julia, the only member with a day job, for some fast, one-sided sex in the early morning hours. These scenes and plenty of hard-core four letter words may be uncomfortable to some audience members.
The simple set at PFamily Arts Theater serves its purpose. The wide stage provides room for scene separation, while at the same time conveys the low-maintenance décor of 70s baby boomers. The sound is clear and sharp.
The play, in part, is drawn from the experiences of its creators, Laurie Windham and Barbara McMillen. The two met at Texas Womens University in the 1970s, and, indeed, played together in a band.
Director Richard Blake does a fine job of keeping the action flowing and getting solid performances from the cast, most of whom are Collin College students.
Give Me A Break: Anything for Rock-N-Roll by Laurie Windham and Barbara McMillen
See photos of performance on the website: http://www.givemeabreakthemusical.com/
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Original Cast Album on ITunes