Theater review: "The Last Smoker in America"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

So much converges in "The Last Smoker in America." It launches the new theater season and marks CATCO's first presentation under the new artistic direction of Steven C. Anderson. And it's the world premiere of a musical, put on by a company that rarely attempts musicals.

How disappointing, then, to have to say that, like the inhaling tobacco addict, this "Smoker" sucks. While the production itself isn't bad, the script piles up too many cliches, like the teenager (Teddy Toye) so into rap that he thinks he's black.

"Smoker" takes us to a near-future where smokers face imprisonment. Pam (Katy Blake) has tried everything to quit but decides to lead a rebellion aimed at restoring our right to "choose what to abuse."

What might have grown into a clever satire on our pursuit of happiness instead dissipates during silly excuses for songs.

The production does smoke in the sense of vibrant musicianship. All four actors sing their lungs out, superbly accompanied by a four-person band. Charlie Corcoran's set starts with a tacky suburban kitchen and blossoms into an inventive showcase.

The most recent CATCO world premiere was last season's memorably homegrown Elijah Pierce biography "Pierce to the Soul." Maybe that says something about rolling your own.

"The Last Smoker in America"

Through Oct. 24

Riffe Center

77 S. High St., Downtown