Critics are rarely short of opinions, but that doesn’t mean we can always make a clear recommendation. With Found, some aspects of this show were very appealing, while others were off-putting. So, here instead are two mini-reviews. Choose the one that sounds like it corresponds with your taste; I stand by both of them.
Review #1. This quirky, high-energy show with a book by Hunter Bell (known for [title of show]) and music by Eli Bolton is loosely based on the creation of Found magazine, a publication and website that collect lost ephemera found in the world — notes, scraps of paper, photos, etc. — and bring them to the public eye. Unsurprisingly, the show has the loose, fragmentary quality of a revue, though there is a binding plot of sorts built around the group of young people responsible for the magazine, who themselves are trying to find their own identities. Many songs are set on found texts — they weren’t meant to be lyrics, but Bolin does a clever job. The talented cast of five men and five women is a diverse group with a young, hungry, ordinary people quality (well, as ordinary as sparkly musical theater performers can be), and they’re always fun to watch; the production, full of imaginative projections, is terrific. The show’s empowering message (“Stay Weird” is the title of one anthemic number) would speak particularly to younger audiences. If you’re looking for a non-denominational, non-specific holiday show for the family, and you don’t mind a little incidental vulgarity, take the kids to Found — they’ll think it’s very cool.
Review #2. Quirky is hard to sustain, even for 100 minutes. Found could have a poignant sweetness, but instead a number of the most heartfelt found notes are turned into mere punchlines. One notable exception, “A Baby in my Dream,” about multiple miscarriages, is disconcertingly isolated in this context, especially when moments later, it’s followed by fart jokes. An obvious irony — that these young people are finding their identities and voices by marketing those of others, whom they’ve never met — seems lost on the Found creators. The slick and shiny presentation undercuts the raw emotion that anchors the story.
There you have it. I should say that I had similarly mixed feelings about Bell’s [title of show], which was a breakout hit, greatly loved by large audiences. Found may well prove to be similar.
Found runs through December 11. For more information, visit the Philadelphia Theatre Company website.