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Song-heavy Mann... and Wife examines struggles of a searching bachelor

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Zachary Prince as Henry Mann and Liz Shivener as Christine. Photo by KO Rinearson. - KO RINEARSON
  • KO Rinearson
  • Zachary Prince as Henry Mann and Liz Shivener as Christine. Photo by KO Rinearson.

Anyone who has ever tested the dating scene’s treacherous waters knows all too well the dangers that lurk beneath the waves: false starts, blinding infatuation, dashed expectations and inevitable heartbreak. The world premiere of Mann… and Wife at Lyric at the Plaza attempts to offer a glimpse into the mind of the single-and-searching American male in an entertaining but inconsistent musical comedy.

Written by Dan Elish and Douglas J. Cohen, Mann… and Wife centers on Henry Mann (played well by Zachary Prince), a 30-ish bachelor living with a ladies’ man roommate Glenn (Mateja Govich). While searching for a date to his ex-fiancée’s wedding, he also searches for the love of his life.

The women who float in and out of his life (Shelia, Tamar, Christine, Mann’s mother, et al) are all played splendidly by Liz Shivener, the hardest-working and most charismatic of the musical’s three-actor cast.

Whether fidgeting as the mousy Christine or donning a fur coat and Mets hat to scold Prince as Henry’s mother, Shivener balances the bro energy from character to character and glosses over some of the chunkier, less-believable interactions between her male counterparts.

All three actors are strong, wonderful singers, and Prince and Govich’s duets are performed with precision and confidence. Mann… and Wife might lean heavier on the music than some plays Oklahoma City audiences are used to — almost the entire script is sung, with dialogue serving as brief segues into the next number.

The gold of Mann… and Wife is in the lyrics. Catchy numbers full to bursting with waspy, hipster humor serve as interactions between the characters and constant glimpses into Henry’s psyche.

Despite the largely terrific performances of all three actors, some inconsistencies in the script, set design and a few of the scenes between Prince and Govich proved to be a bit problematic as the evening progressed.

It’s clear that Henry is supposed to endear himself to the audience with his dogged desire to meet the love of his life; however, after so much yearning, so much wallowing in romantic idealization of every female he meets, it becomes harder to root for him.

Govich doesn’t capture the swagger that Glenn’s character calls for, and his interactions with Prince sometimes lack the confident jocularity that one assumes the script intended.

The sets, designed by Adam Koch, are beautiful, bold and confusing. A black-and-white collage of big city stoops and street corners complete with a basketball hoop set every inch of 15 feet high, the sets would be great if more of the scenes were set outdoors. They weren’t, though, so a good deal of the production was spent wondering why Henry and Glenn were eating dinner underneath a bridge.

By and large, Mann… and Wife offers a pleasant enough glimpse into the turmoil and triumph of a single guy’s love life.

Print headline: Dating dilemma, A world premiere show with a small cast hits some high notes and causes a bit of confusion.

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