Diversionary Theatre’s final performance of its 2015 mini-season, A New Brain, is an ambitious musical production (a cast of 10, over 30 songs) that more often than not hits the right notes. Composer William Finn (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and librettist James Lapine (Into the Woods) wrote this 1998 musical about a songwriter for a kids show who must undergo brain surgery. When A New Brain is good, as during moving tunes sung by Tom Zohar as the protagonist, Gordon Schwinn, and Sandy Campbell as his neurotic mother, it is very good indeed. When silliness intrudes, as it does on a few too-cute numbers with props, A New Brain is just amusing. The ideal way to appreciate it as a whole is to imagine that everything on stage after Gordon’s dire diagnosis is in his head, scatterings of life and memory, joys and fears that sometime make no sense. That’s the marvel of the brain.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat