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Review: 'Things to Ruin'

“Things to Ruin; The Songs of Joe Iconis” is a review of music. No plot, no named characters. Simply a series of songs about life, mostly early life, all by composer Joe Iconis.

Renegade Theater Company’s production, which opened Thursday at Teatro Zuccone, featured eight vocalists and a four-piece on-stage orchestra.

It’s a varied and energetic show, most of the numbers having a driving rock ’n’ roll flavor. They contain humor, anger, sadness and anxiety, delivered in lyrics that are clever with rock-solid instrumental backup.

Amber Burns and Evan Kelly directed, with Burns, an experienced choreographer, no doubt responsible for maintaining the excellent visual interest on the production.

Full disclosure: Your humble reviewer is 67 years old and his iTune collection includes not a single pop song recorded after 1989. Numbers I liked may do nothing for you, depending upon how callow you are, and vice versa.

My favorites were: “Helen,” in which Cory Anderson discovers that the girl who had the lead in the senior class play is now a porn actress.

“Honey,” with Tyler Goebel trying to persuade a girl to give up her jerk boyfriend for him. Its tone and style — with three female backup singers — was reminiscent of James Brown and his Fabulous Flames.

“Albuquerque Anyway,” in which Jake Caceres captured the poignancy of a 9-year-old boy saying goodbye to his best friend, who’s moving away.

On the other hand: The opening number, “I Was Born This Morning,” was less stirring than it might have been because the eight-voice vocals were muddied. The cast did much better later in the show, as on “The Whiskey Song. “ And “Mamma, Cut Me Deeper,” performed by Bryan Burns, was apparently a metaphor the meaning of which remains a mystery.

Sara Wabrowetz brought a big voice an almost frantic energy to “Everybody’s at the Bar (Without Me)” and Maria DePesa demonstrated wonderful control of emotional tone on “Good For You.” Vanessa Barr both drew out the notes in a bluesy style and wailed like a soul singer on “Almost There,” and Kristen Parizek nailed “Just Means,” in which a young woman tries to gently rebuff a date request and ends the song with a surprise twist.

Tyler Pimm, on piano, also contributed “The Guide to Success,” a bitterly cynical checklist for thriving in the business world.

Pimm, percussionist Doug Quance, guitarist Tyler Kaiser and bassist Kyle Anderson backed up the singers brilliantly. Kaiser’s work was especially notable on “Guide to Success.”

Paul Brissett is a Duluth writer, noted fuddy-duddy and amateur actor who has appeared in numerous community theater productions.

If you go

What: Renegade Theater Company’s “Things to Ruin”

Where: Teatro Zuccone, 222 E. Superior St.

When: 8 p.m. today, Saturday, Aug. 21–23 and 28–30

How much: $18, but $15 for students and seniors and $25 for VIP seating with free food and drinks and table-side drink service

For information: (218) 499-9782 or renegadetheatercompany. Org

The review: Not a play, but a musical revue, well-staged and performed.