THEATER REVIEW: “John Doe: The Ultimate Midlife Crisis” has its world premiere in San Diego

Pity poor John Doe. He’s stuck in a hospital bed, unable to move or speak, and forced to put up with a bunch of strangers cavorting around him and singing songs with simplistic lyrics.

This is Robert Moutal’s “John Doe: The Ultimate Midlife Crisis,” a new musical in its world premiere through Nov. 25 at San Diego Repertory Theatre. Michael Schwartz directs.

The patient (Michael Nieto) is brought in unconscious and with no ID. Nurses Olga (Susan Hammons) and Abby (Rachel Propst) scurry in and out, hoping to elicit a response from him.

His dragon-witch of a wife Julie (Jane Lui) flits in and out, attempting to make sure he never leaves the hospital alive.

Five actors representing elements of the patient’s personality argue, sing and dance around him. One, Dr. Pashent (Geoffrey Cox, representing Freud’s rational ego), explains that he suffers from “locked-in syndrome,” a form of paralysis in which signals from the brain no longer reach the muscles.

The other Freudian elements are the id in the person of Glenn “Psycho” Sickone (Keala Milles) and Officer (Albert Park), the superego. Also along for the ride are Thornton (Austin Holden), a conceited lawyer, representing supreme self-confidence, and Avery Joe (Michael Parrott), the “average Joe” side.

Moutal is an Emmy-winning TV producer who announced before the show that this is his first foray into the world of musical comedy. It’s a tough field, and one that few have attempted solo.

Moutal has done it all: book, music and lyrics, without experience or formal musical training. You’ve got to admire the guts, but the result is less than stellar.

The script needs more focus, the characters more depth. The five “figments,” as they’re called, are one-dimensional and seem to be mere props for the songs, as nothing much happens to any of them. There are a few good melodies, but no really good lyrics. Courtney Corey contributed some fairly lackluster choreography.

The plot really revolves around John Doe (who turns out to be a writer named David Levinson), his wife Julie and Nurse Abby (Rachel Propst). Perhaps this triangle should be developed further.

On the plus side, the cast is commended for gamely giving their all. There are two outstanding singers: Lui and Propst. The five-piece onstage orchestra is strong. The sets and costumes by Nadja Lancelot are simple but functional.

Michael Schwartz directs as well as one could, given the plot limitations.

Rewrites to make it clearer who the intended audience is (for example, more adult lyrics for adults) might make this a marketable project. As it is ... not so much.

The details

John Doe Productions, Chinese Pirate Productions & A Culture of Peace’s production of “John Doe: The Ultimate Midlife Crisis” plays through Nov. 25 at San Diego Repertory’s Lyceum Space Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza, downtown.

Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm.

For tickets, call 619-544-1000 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.