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The Other Josh Cohen

Steve Rosen and David Rossmer


The Other Josh Cohen

                                  by Julia Polinsky

That NYC rite of passage -- the break-in -- sets up just how pathetic, geeky, and miserable is Josh Cohen’s life. (“Only the Beginning”) Before the house lights go down, even before everyone’s seated, a thief breaks into Josh’s apartment (terrific scenic design from Carolyn Mraz) and steals everything but a Neil Diamond CD and a “hang in there, kitty” page-a-day calendar. Even Josh’s Star Wars shower curtain and birdsong-clock go bye-bye.


The rest of the 90 minutes of The Other Josh Cohen spin out the tale of how Josh seeks love (“My Best Day,” an ironic take on Valentine’s Day); gets guidance from, believe it or not, Neil Diamond (“Neil Life”); receives an out-of-the-blue check for a lot of money, which may or may not be from a relative (Samuel Cohen’s Family Tree” a hilarious look at the many, many descendants of a randy immigrant patriarch), and has to make a hard decision about that money. Because he is a shlub, Josh does the right thing, and in this case his good deed goes unpunished. He triumphs and gets the girl.


That’s not a spoiler. In The Other Josh Cohen, you know from the get-go that things work out OK for Josh, because another Josh is on stage, telling you so. Yes, there are two Josh Cohens in the show, sporting identical untucked checked shirts; let’s call them Loser Josh (Steve Rosen) and Cooler Josh (David Rossmer). Cooler Josh knows that all will be well, since he’s the one-year-older and happier version of Loser Josh, and narrates the show, singing and playing guitar, among other instruments -- kind of a combination Greek chorus, Ghost of Christmas Future, and cheerleader.


Rosen and Rossmer also wrote the book, music, and lyrics for The Other Josh Cohen, a labor of love that clearly has borne fruit in the way theater-dreamers pray for: work, tryout, work more, tryout again, work more, edit, work, festival, rework, Paper Mill Playhouse, and… off-Broadway! Kudos to the creative partnership for sticking it out, especially to director Hunter Foster, whose seamless management of the unlikeliest of romantic heroes, a doppelganger narrator, and dozens of other characters look natural as can be.



The songs, which are fun enough but nothing special, sometimes suffer from lickety-split pacing. When that many lyrics burst from the cast, individual words get lost in the shuffle. Bart Fasbender’s sound design didn’t help; in addition to occasional tech glitches, the production as a whole sounded muffled. Nicole V. Moody’s spot-on costume design worked like a charm, on every one of the zillion or so characters, and Jeff Croiter lit them all up just right.


The show is overall fun and cute, a self-referential spin on the careworn trope of life in the big city: looking for love, losing everything, batting above your weight, and striking out, over and over, yet with a big payoff. The Other Josh Cohen manages to make those ideas fairly fresh, largely due to the talent and enthusiasm of Rosen and Rossmer, and the energetic versatility of the astonishingly talented supporting cast.


These actor/musicians play all the instruments and all the non-Josh parts. The program lists them as: “A Lot of People,” (Jane Bruce); “A Bunch of People,” (Louis Tucci); A Bunch of Other People,” (Cathryn Wake); ”The Rest of the People,” (Luke Darnell) and “At Least One More Person” (Elizabeth Nestlerode). Lightning fast wig and costume changes turn them into everyone from Josh’s father to Neil Diamond, often hilariously. They also morph from drummer to keyboard player, and they all play all the instruments. It’s as lively a display of talent as you’re likely to see.


The Other Josh Cohen offers up a warm and fuzzy feel-good 90 minutes at the Westside Theatre/Downstairs until April 7. Make a date with Josh and keep it. You never know what’ll happen.


The Other Josh Cohen

Westside Theatre/Downstairs

407 W. 43rd St (9th-10th)

Tues, Thurs, Fri, 7pm; Wed, Sat, 3pm and 8pm; Sunday, 3pm

Tickets $59-89