THE HOARY TALE OF A WHORE AND HER HONEY: Theatre Review of ‘New Girl in Town’

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She’s left the cathouse and the cattle back in Wisconsin: Ms. Margaret Loesser Robinson as Anna.

There is a difference, I suppose, between reviving a classic and uncovering a curio. There is the tendency to assume that our fairly static canon obscures unrecognized gems, and while there are occasions where the shade of history has shrouded a Cullinan Diamond, for the most part forgotten works range from brown coal to rose quartz. The New Girl, Bob Merrill and George Abbott’s 1957 adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s 1921 tragicomedy Anna Christie, is of the semi-precious variety.

Under the direction of Charlotte Moore, it is not entirely without charm; Margaret Losser Robinson as Anna and Danielle Ferland as Marthy are tremendous. Their male co-stars, however, cannot equal their fire. They are either old, ineffectual, and avuncular (a capable Cliff Bemis as Anna’s sweet lush of a father and sea-barge captain, Chris Christopherson) or young, handsome, and flaccid (Patrick Cummings straining his voice and our patience as Anna’s beloved sailor Matt). Because of the play’s casting, the men seem almost unnecessary were it not for the bothersome necessities of plot. Mr. Bemis does the far better job at commanding the stage, but his character whistles ditties. And rather than blowing flames, Mr. Cummings’s Matt simpers; his immaculate locks do not make up for an absence of stage presence and a what would seem an essential ability to croon.

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EPHERMA FOUND & RESURECCTED: Theatre Review of ‘The Girl of The Golden West’

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Starr Kwofie is the Man & the Law.

The lasting power of cultural flotsam is difficult to dispute. Hollywood’s insistence on remaking or “rebooting” the same movie every five years is only is only the most bemoaned example. This tendency to recycle only wildly profitable franchises is widely and often justly derided; our foolish consistency as consumers is rewarded with the vicious cycle of Transformers films. Every now and then even we small-minded hobgoblins reject our daily (wonder) bread as was the joyous case with this summer’s Battleship. However, there are reasons that transcend profits that motivate our desire to see newborn avatars of old favorites, told and retold stories that resonate with our souls, or at least our “inner child.”

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A REVOLUTIONARY GENERAL AND A CONFORMIST MUSICAL: Theatre Review of ‘Zapata! The Musical’

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Viva! &c.

NOTE: Zapata! The Musical ended July 29th.

If Disney were to make a musical about a Mexican Revolutionary, Zapata! The Musical, would look something like it. In spite of its cheery (and often overbearingly cheesy) idealism, you cannot but help but turn lukewarm to its naïf heart. Like the Walt Disney Company, Zapata (played with unrelenting virtue by Enrique Acevedo) whose story has been trimmed and massaged to avoid messy ambiguities, complications, and complexities, emerges as a fairy tale of star-crossed romance. The work it most closely resembles is Disney’s animated feature Pocahontas in its transformation of our troubling past of colonization into dolls and “happy meal” tie-ins. Unlike a Disney musical, however, the songs fail to inspire, or even to garner much interest, though they do have the advantage of not gumming up our heads (see “It’s a Small World”). The music itself is as difficult to distinguish as two grains of sands in the Sonoran Desert, and equally arid.

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DID YOU HEAR? HOMO SAPIENS SAPIENS ARE A NASTY, NASTY BUNCH: Theatre Review of ‘The Apocalyptic Road Show With Your Host Gdjet and Lulu’

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Catherine Gillard as Gdjet reminding us what miserable sinners we are.

On the evening I went to see The Apocalyptic Road Show my companion—whom I adore, but who shall remain nameless for his remarkably bad taste— was the only member of the audience who appeared to be enjoying himself. The rest of us looked on sourly, quietly judging.

After the performers had taken their bows and we were safely outside, this anonymous friend complained of the audience’s disinterest in the evening’s performance. He claimed that we spectators “sucked.” He contended that had the rest of us shown even the possibility of a penchant to engage with the performers, our time would have been more pleasurable, or at least we would have found our stay in the black box a little less jejune. Perhaps. Not one of us purchased a beverage at the bar, as was the ready offer. No one hollered (save my friend) and when instructed to clap, we did so politely. None of us let down our hair to partake in the rowdiness of typical cabaret theatre. We were as dour as our distaste, and I would not have had it any other way.

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NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY, SIZE MATTERS. HERE’S WISHING FOR A FEW MORE INCHES: Theatre Review of “Miss Lily Gets Boned”

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Dr. Vandalla Bhalla and Harold in session. The only thing missing is oriental rug draped on a chaise longue. Oh, and a cigar!

The New York première of Bekah Brunstetter’s Miss Lily Gets Boned, Or: The Loss of All Elephant Elders disappoints precisely because it rewards. It’s only ninety minutes. The depth of the performances and the casual eloquence of Ms. Brunstetter’s script under David F. Chapman’s sensitive direction all make for a heady loss when the house lights come on and the cast takes their bows. 

Miss Lily divides its time between the recent past in “a place where you put elephants when they’ve been bad” and “A medium-ish sized town with a big Baptist church. The kind where the pastor wears a wireless mic and the Christmas show employs over 50 actors. And live camels.” (And those are just the stage directions.) The play opens to Harold, a six-year-old bull elephant whose parents were almost certainly murdered in front of him by poachers (Harold is performed with remarkable subtlety by a triad of puppeteers: Brian Belcinski, Adam Blodgett, and Aaron McDaniel in a creature created and choreographed by James Ortiz). In the opening tableau an elephant specialist Dr. Vandalla Bhalla stands opposite the furious pachyderm; she has been given a week to try to rehabilitate Harold by the deceased’s widower, Richard (Chris Thorn). Harold meets Dr. Bhalla’s initial pleas with tugs at his chain and intimations that the unfortunate tourist won’t be his last victim.

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LET THE KNIGHT ERRANTS SAVE THOSE DISTRESSED VIRGINAL MAIDENS, THIS MISS WANTS TO LOSE HERS: Theatre Review of ‘Nymph Errant’

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Andrew Brewer as Oliver and Jennifer Blood as Eve looking rather more concupiscent than they are through most of the production.

Cole Porter’s Nymph Errant premiered in London in 1933, but it had to wait until 1982 for its American première. If you make it to see The Prospect Theater Company’s Nymph Errant you may be surprised at the lag time between the West End and our minikin island of Brobdingnags (Nymph Errant never enjoyed a Broadway run). It certainly isn’t one of Porter’s more accomplished works, though he considered its score his “best.” That may be, but some of the lyrics verge on the ridiculous (it should be noted that the original libretto was adapted by Rob Urbinati) particularly a sanitary engineer’s (plumber) paean to his profession. But a little absurdity doesn’t hurt, especially not in something as fluffy as this.

The heroine of this adventure, Evangeline (Jennifer Blood) may not visit the country of Lilliput or that of the Brobdingnags, but she does voyage widely across Europe in a dashed attempt to lose her virginity after giving up on true love. (This send up of 1930 sexual mœurs is harldy Swiftian satire and could use a soupçon or even a ladleful of acid.) The poor girl can’t even manage to get laid in the Emir’s harem. The resident eunuch tells her plainly, “The Emir will attend to you in the order in which you were received.” It’s a great line, but here it lacks the needed punch.

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THIS TIME IT’S KRISTIN PARKER; MARY-LOUISE MUST HAVE BEEN BUSY: Theatre Review of ‘proof’

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Alan Langdon as Robert and Kristin Parker as Catherine out in the cold.

David Auburn’s first play since the Pulitzer winner proof, The Columnist, closed July 8. Sink or Swim Rep’s revival of proof opened two days earlier at The Connelly Theater. The Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of Mr. Auburn’s latest play enjoyed an exceptional cast and a labored script; the Auburn production playing downtown boasts a stronger script, but a considerably weaker cast. It’s too late to see Mr. Lithgow play the last of the syndicated columnists, but those who left the MTC production dissatisfied and craving more of Mr. Auburn’s prose may be interested in seeing his last succèss fou.

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