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Kevin Zak and Jennifer Blood (center) Brennan Caldwell and Morgan Weed. Photo: Jenny Anderson




                                              By Fern Siegel



Musicals geared to millennials, such as Dear Evan Hansen and Be More Chill — are becoming increasingly popular as that target audience puts theater on its to-do list. (Tony winner Avenue Q kicked off the movement.)


Though radically different in tone and theme, the trio hits key concerns for the demo. Neurosis, now at the DR2 Theater, aims for the same niche audience, though the focus here is strictly entertainment lite.


Two late-20somethings, WASPy Abby (Jennifer Blood) and Frank (Kevin Zak), meet and fall in love. She is an ambitious marketing executive with a penchant for losers (Ian Michael Stuart) and an unexplained desire to meet a Jewish man.


Frank, who nicely fits into the nebbish category, works in a magic shop and dreams of becoming a first-rate magician. His stereotypical parents want him to go to law school; but he’s hardly courtroom material. This is a guy destined to remain in life’s chorus.


The duo seemingly clicks, though it is hard to see the attraction. She is pretty with low expectations, aside from religious. He is a lame flirt. Perhaps Frank’s straight-talking therapist (Lacretta) could explain the connection. Also why — and here’s the musical’s twist — they keep company with their neuroses. Literally.


The show opens with two men brushing their teeth. Are they roommates? We soon realize that Frank’s pal is an extension of himself, a kind of superego known as Neurosis.


In its simplest form, neurosis is usually excessive and irrational anxiety or obsession. We all have it; it’s not organic and doesn’t include losing touch with reality. That is, unless you turn it into a musical. 


Here, the two “neuroses” are fully realized — and visible. They act as encouraging, sometimes-funny boosters or warning signs. What they are not: conventionally understood neuroses.


The irony is that Frank’s Neurosis (a talented Brennan Caldwell, who should be in a “Book of Mormon” replacement cast) and Neurosalina (played at my performance by capable understudy Casey Erin Clark) are far more interesting than their human counterparts. And both performers rip into their roles.


Even Frank’s parents, over-the-top stereotypes (Susan J. Jacks and Joel Blum), display a certain offbeat humor. Yet in a show that tries to use psychological insights to determine character and destiny, it’s disturbing to see tired, dated Jewish imagery dragged out for cheap laughs.


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Lacretta, Ian Michael Stuart, Morgan Weed, Jennifer Blood, Kevin Zak, Brennan Caldwell, Susan J. Jacks and Joel Blum.  Photo: Jenny Anderson


Now, this show isn’t Next To Normal, a breakthrough Broadway musical that explored the tragedy of mental illness in searing ways. Neurosis is strictly for and about the worried well.  It employs wordplay and the occasionally zingy one-liner.


Composer Ben Green, lyricist Greg Edwards and book writer Allan Rice have created a musical comedy that isn’t trying to push any boundaries; it’s there to entertain. (Frank’s mom and Abby square off in “Meet-the-Parents Tango.”)


Per the playbill, Rice earned a degree in clinical psychology at Tufts University, and while he is not revealing any major psychological insights, he is promoting the idea of self-confidence and examination.


Abby uses her job to escape confronting her poor choices in men.  She doesn’t seem to feel she deserves a man as capable — personally and professionally — as herself.  Frank has a surfeit of insecurity. He is almost clinically unable to assert himself — even in the world of magic, which ostensibly means the most to him. 


His mother wonders why he can’t go to law school and enjoy magic on the side. Given the musical’s setup, the audience is almost forced to agree.


Still, Green’s pop score is melodious and upbeat and Shea Sullivan’s choreography is terrific. Director Andy Sandberg maintains a lively pace; his cast works well together and is clearly having fun in the process.

Neurosis. DR2 Theater, 103 East 15 St. Running time: 103 minutes. Tickets: Through October 7th.