"In Joseph Reed Hates’ original theatrical drama “Solos,” now being performed at the Lowndes Shakespeare Theater in Orlando, the relationship that Blue and Ellie develop as two passionate artists quickly, and predictably, turns romantic. They become emotionally linked as lovers, as their career in Jazz proves durable for years to come.
What’s so appealing about Hayes’ drama is the way in which the focus remains on the couple, who light up when they talk about their creative aspirations for their music, but who struggle to maintain a loving home; but at the same time, Jazz remains the shadow that covers them in the background. And it turns out to have a much stronger grip on their lives, and passion for one another, than either one might have predicted when they began to stumbled over so many painful low points at home. This intimate drama, with stellar performances by Michael Sapp as Blue and Desiree Perez as Ellie, is as much about the power of music and creativity as it is about how the couples’ lives changes over the years. It truly holds you in an almost hypnotic way. This is great theater for adults – a show that touches on our emotions as we connect with a couple soaring on the wings of their shared love for music, only to seemingly fall when their differences become too challenging to mount. And that is not even the end of the drama."
Solos is nothing less than the history of jazz in America, as told through the relationship of two people, in three movements and a coda. It is about love, deception and the hardships and joys of the jazz existence. At its heart is the fabulous, always-changing life of the music itself, a dance of timing, in which the rhythms of dialog mimic the rhythms of jazz and the music becomes the third character, reinterpreting the actors' emotional involvements.
"A touching story about love, truth, God and jazz as religion … a must-see performance." — Orlando CityBeat
Ellie Grace is the well-educated daughter of a privileged family; Ben "Blue" Miller a working musician blowing his best and getting nowhere. New Years Eve of 1939, Blue meets society girl Ellie in a hotel ballroom. He plays in the band; her daddy owns the place. She's a gifted composer with no outlet for her music, and he's an itinerant musician, a "gypsy" without a way to the top. They begin a passionate relationship that lasts a life-time — she composes but is uninterested in performing; he plays her dazzling new music and accepts the acclaim from the audience.Her family and her insecurity keep her out of the performing spotlight, and he is more than willing to get famous by playing her groundbreaking work and taking the credit.
"Which is when the guy says to me — why the trumpet? "All the really good musicians," says he, "they play the sax-ah-phone." Might as well ask, why New York? Why water? Why blood? "Tell me, Mr. Miller, when exactly did you decide on air, when there are so many other fine respiratory choices available?" Why the trumpet ... A trumpet, you see, is human breath made solid, cold metal that howls and groans, yells and cries. It proclaims, it announces, it rings out like joy and it cuts the heart like sorrow. Men march into battle and a horn leads the way ... and they go to their final rest with the echoes of a lone player on an unseen distant hill sounding Taps. Joshua didn’t play no saxophone at the battle of Jericho! Ain't no walls a-tumblin down from a slide trombone, no no no!"
The music scene changes, from swing and bebop through "free" jazz to melodic post-modern, with Ellie's compositions leading the way. Ellie is delighted to give her music to the man she loves, but becomes frustrated by her invisibility as the decades go by, with Ben unwilling to risk falling from the heights he has attained ... until things finally explode.