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Photo: Chelcie Perry

Cititour.com Review
Outrageously funny. Outrageously smart. Outrageously tuneful. Simply outrageous. All these descriptions fit “Teeth,” which should hopefully keep making its mark on New York’s theatrical scene long past whenever it closes at its current home, Playwrights Horizons. While “Teeth” is sometimes raunchy, frequently foul-mouthed, and a tad bit gory (in movie terms, it’s a definite R), it’s still the best new musical I’ve seen all year.

If you’re not aware, the show is not about vampires or sadistic dentists. (Been there, done that!) Instead, composer and co-librettist Anna Jacobs and lyricist and co-book-writer Michael R. Jackson (who wrote the iconic “A Strange Loop”) have served up a brilliant adaptation of Mitchell Lichenstein’s cult classic horror film, of a very different nature, which has taken nearly 20 years to get to the stage.

The musical – which runs nearly two hours without an intermission – focuses on a seemingly pious young woman named Dawn (played by the extraordinarily talented Alyse Alan Louis, reminiscent of a young Kerry Butler) who discovers she has the mythical condition “vagina dentata” (aka teeth inside the nether region) after she decides to give up her virginity to her hunky, too-horny-for-his-own good boyfriend Tobey (the perfectly cast Jason Gotay).

While Dawn is initially frightened by her new power – and attempts to lose it forever by having sex with her gay-wanting-to-be-straight bff Ryan (a hilarious Ryan Loftin) – she ultimately comes to embrace it as man after man tries to control her, tame her, or shame her. And you know what they say about a woman scorned!

Indeed, “Teeth” has a lot to say about the dangers of the patriarchy – embodied by the all-male Truth Seekers, which her unhappy stepbrother Brad (a fine Will Connolly) eagerly joins – and men’s deep-seated fear that women (the so-called feminocracy) are taking over the world. (True in the 1970s, still true today!)

The show also takes aim – and hits the bullseye – at the hypocrisy of religious zealotry, personified here in superb form by Steven Pasquale as Dawn’s out-of-his-mind stepfather, who is also the community pastor. Unsurprisingly, as well, all the women who are part of the Pastor’s “promise keeper” group can barely wait to confess their impure thoughts or unleash their hidden desires.

Unlike most of the characters, every aspect of this production is beyond reproach. Jacobs has written melodies that are surprisingly easy on the ear, sometimes matched by Jackson’s almost prosaic lyrics. (For example, the duet “I’m Your Guy” could fit almost any romantic musical!) And even her sweetest tunes somehow sync up with Jackson’s dare-to-shock lyrics, which probably shouldn’t be repeated here.

Sarah Benson has directed the show with true respect for both the material and the audience, knowing just how far she can go to get laughs and also keep our brains involved. Raja Feather Kelly’s choreography, especially for the Promise Keeper girls, is fun to watch; Adam Rigg’s seemingly simple set proves to include way more than initially meets the eye (aided by Jane Cox and Stacey Derosier’s lighting and Jeremy Chernick’s special effects); and Enver Chakartash’s costumes are spot-on.

True, there are many moments when “Teeth”’ feels like its bark is worse than its bite. But there are plenty of others that will leave your mouth open in amazement.

By Brian Scott Lipton

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Open/Close Dates
Opening 3/19/2024
Closing 4/28/2024

Theatre Info
Playwrights Horizons
416 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036