Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick — Elegies: A Song Cycle at Keegan Theatre

Keegan Theatre stages a new production of William Finn's "celebration of life and music," serving as a balm in light of the pandemic era.

ELEGIES, Brigid Wallace by Cameron Whitman
Elegies: Brigid Wallace — — Photo: Cameron Whitman

Peter Marks, the Washington Post‘s longtime theater critic, once called William Finn the “composer-laureate of loss.” While that descriptor doesn’t jive with all of Finn’s works, including The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and his musical adaptation of Little Miss Sunshine, it does capture the type of work on which the mostly autobiographical-minded playwright long ago staked his reputation — that is, musicals exploring life, love, and loss drawing from his firsthand experience as a gay, Jewish New Yorker who was in the prime of his life at the dawn of the 1980s and throughout the worst of the AIDS epidemic.

All of that fueled Finn’s trilogy of short musicals that ultimately gave rise to Falsettos, which garnered two Tony Awards in 1992, one for Best Original Score and the other for Best Book of a Musical, the latter shared with co-writer James Lapine.

Even more on point is Elegies: A Song Cycle, in which Finn tackled issues of loss and grief in ways smart, sensitive, touching, even uplifting and funny.

First presented Off-Broadway in the spring of 2003, a year and a half after the 9/11 terrorists attacks, Elegies is Finn’s inspired collection of catharsis-inducing songs memorializing various people, both real and ficitionalized, from the friends he lost to AIDS to victims of the World Trade Center collapse, as well as three songs specifically commemorating the life of his mother — not to mention “My Dogs,” which offers a posthumous shout-out to his former furry companions.

Keegan Theatre has staged a new production of this “celebration of life and music” that the company intends to serve as a kind of balm in light of the pandemic era.

“Many of us experienced giant losses that we had to grieve privately [during the pandemic],” director Christina A. Coakley says in an official press release. “Our hope in producing this musical is to provide a public memorialization for all members of our community and to temporarily resurrect those impactful people or experiences. Elegies is reparative to the soul and a celebration of these extraordinary connections that make life worth living.”

Coakley assembled a diverse cast to help her realize that vision, including John Loughney, Katie McManus, Harrison Smith, Brigid Wallace, and DeJeanette Horne.

Through Nov. 20 at Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church St. NW. Tickets are $60. Visit www.keegantheatre.com or call 202-265-3767.

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