From the Fantasticks to I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, it seems no matter what the socio-political-sexual climate, there's always room for a nice little romantic musical. The latest entrant in the genre has been germinating for several months in Denver, CO and may soon be ready to branch out further into other cities and stages.
Breaking Open, playing a late-nite gig at Denver's Studio 44, features Lynn Grasberg and Ira Liss sharing writing, performing and acting duties in a duet about the perils of modern-day dating. The show follows a middle-aged man and woman on their first four dates -- the fourth being the make-or-break meeting on whether a relationship will develop. Though Breaking Open has dialogue scenes, much of the show brings Grasberg and/or Liss to an electric piano or acoustic guitar to deliver (mostly comic) songs about loneliness, sex, getting older and seeking the right life-partner.
Grasberg had been doing songs and comedy at the Tryllion Cafe in Boulder, CO, when she met Liss, whose material had strikingly similar themes. (Liss had been trained in improv by Second City alum Martin H. Friedberg and appeared in murder mystery theatres in the New York area.) Grasberg told Playbill On-Line (June 1) that on Oct. 27, 1997 she and Liss teamed onstage for the first time, trading off songs and doing some improv. The next day they spoke by phone and decided to do a scripted musical together.
"We wrote new songs and created dialogue, and three weeks later we did our first show," Grasberg told Playbill On-Line. "Now it's pretty much a set show, though we still improvise parts of it."
Songs in Breaking Open include "Long Distance Blues," "Can We Go Slow?", "Fantasy Woman #37," "I Wanna Live In A Beer Commercial," "Creatures of Contrast" and "Grandma Blues." Though Grasberg and Liss have already received offers to take the show to other states, a more pressing concern has been their current gig. "We were doing it in late March at 8 PM and the audiences were great," said Grasberg. "On late night it's much harder to fill the seats and we're starting to lose money on the rental." The two were considering moving to another venue but decided, June 1, to stay put for at least a little while longer.
The move paid off, because as of this weekend, an 8 PM Friday and Saturday slot opened up, and Breaking Open will now play those times at Studio 44 through (at least) July 11.
Still the ultimate goal of Breaking Open is the ultimate goal of many regional shows: New York. "Ira's from New York," said Grasberg, "and he has friends there, so it's probable we'll get there at some point, though how that happens, I don't know yet."
For tickets ($14-$16) and information on Breaking Open at Studio 44, 2865 44th Ave., Denver call (303) 561-1793.
-- By David Lefkowitz