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NY Theater Reviews

CODED CHARACTERS

By SANDY MACDONALD

This sprightly, clever musical proves that theater doesn't always have to enlighten; it can simply tickle.

I’ve yet to employ an emoji. Have we not long since graduated from the crude semaphore stage of communication? Casting snobbery aside, I emerged from Ken Harrison and Laura Schein’s sprightly, clever musical sorely tempted to start. I would begin by according this show four Shooting Stars, in hopes of helping to launch it toward Broadway, which could use a bit more fizz right now.
 
Theater doesn’t always have to rattle or enlighten. It can just plain tickle – as does every tropish gesture employed by Lesli Margherita as the reigning “Princess” of her realm. Signature moves – beyond an impressive split – include filing her claw-like fake nails with an oversize emery board and posing for selfies with that popular tongue-hanging moue that’s meant to appear erotic but always looks moronic.
 
The Princess’ reign as top-dog egomaniac is threatened by the introduction of a new set of emojis, specifically one epicene, roly-poly “Prince” (Josh Lamon). Hilarious sibling-rivalry hijinks ensue. Balancing the silliness with heart-felt emotion, “Police Officer” (Felicia Boswell) and “Construction Worker” (Natalie Weiss) celebrate their workaday but nonetheless intense romance, “Work Together.” Meanwhile, lurking about the recesses of the dazzlingly high-tech set is the ostensibly suicidal “Skull”: goth-clad Lucas Steele (Great Comet of 1812), giving full rein to a voice that wouldn’t be amiss in the Met. He’s the only one, initially, to befriend the aptly labeled “Nerd Face” (The Visit’s George Abud), a newbie clearly destined to be bully-bait.
 
Will Nerd Face get the girl? That would be superficially perky but secretly depressive “Smiling Face with Smiling Eyes,” nicely played by co-author Schein. The odds look good. This is a classic romcom, after all – even if it happens to revolve around mere electronic blips.