The Public Theater’s staging of Paul Simon’s 1998 musical The Capeman was a hit at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater over the weekend. But it’s original run closed after 68 performances. Here’s why, probably!
1. The score is like… really happy.
The score is sublime—all rousing Latin rhythms and sweet vintage harmonies. But it stands in direct contrast with the show’s dark subject. (Gang member Salvador Agron killed someone and went to jail and his mother mourned and supported him. And… that’s about it.) Very little about the story feels worthy of breathless celebration or a perky dance number, and that’s a lot of what happened in the park.
2. Salvador is a jerk. But you’re supposed to like him. A lot.
Here’s the thing with The Capeman: You can’t root for the hero. He killed someone, doesn’t appear particularly remorseful, tries to paint himself as the victim, tries to somehow blame the victim for getting himself killed, finds Jesus, recants and then dies. You can’t exactly put that on a t-shirt, you know?
3. Salvador is apparently the same age as his mom.
Natascia Diaz is supposed to be Ivan Hernandez’s mother? This takes ultra-youthful casting for women to a whole new crazy level of crazy, and bends my personal suspension of disbelief to its breaking point. Shes’ gorgeous—and otherwise a great selection for her forceful singing and pint-sized gravitas—but how old was she when she allegedly had him? Four?
4. Everyone onstage is lying. All the time. Maybe.
Our leading man seems pretty confused at times. First he’s unrepentant about murder. Then, out of nowhere, he’s denying that he killed anyone and pleading his innocence. By this point in the show, Salvador and the people around him have become such unreliable, tone-deaf narrators that it’s impossible to know who to believe. I don’t think this is an intentional way of telling this story; it’s just unclear.
5. A random guy shows up at the end.
During the curtain call of Paulus’s Capeman, the cast was joined onstage by legendary Puerto Rican singer Danny Rivera. He sang his lungs out, and soft-shoed, and the crowd loved it. But why? One lead character is a murderer, and the other is his admitted enabler. It seems kind of cheap, after going through that with the characters, to then turn the show into a quaint little party. Diane Paulus could get an audience out of its seats to dance even after Claude bit the big one in Hair. In The Capeman, however, the big-singing finale sounds gorgeous, but feels a little icky in practice.