Sunday, December 5, 2010

WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN • Belasco Theatre

In all honesty, I'm not sure how objective I'm going to be able to be on this one (seeing shows in NYC always kinda clouds my objectivity), but I'll do my best.

Based on Pedro Almodóvar's 1988  film of the same name, WOMEN got a lot of negative buzz when it was in previews last month.  Without the benefit of an out-of-town tryout, this show had to work out the kinks in front of a full-price paying New York audience.  Oof!

You've got the main character Pepa (Sherie Rene Scott), a movie voice dubber, who's just been dumped by her longtime asshole boyfriend Ivan (Brian Stokes Mitchell) at the center of the story.  As the plot unfolds, we're eventually introduced to Ivan's bitter first wife Lucia (Patti LuPone) recently released from an institution and looking to get even with Ivan, their son Carlos (Justin Guarini), his passionless fiancée Marisa (Nikka Graff Lanzarone, who I saw in the Starbucks by 45th and 7th), and Pepa's best friend Candela (Laura Benanti), a model who's discovered she may be dating a terrorist.  Then there's this taxi driver who's kind of like the narrator.  Also, there's Lucia's lawyer, and this motorcycle couple who keeps popping up.  All of these people are rolling with love's punches in some way, and once everyone's stories come together, I thought it was a joy to watch -- but it takes awhile to come together.

Sherie Rene Scott (Pepa).
Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
The show is supposed to be a farce, but at one point Pepa makes a winking reference to plot devices and stuff so they can tell you that that's where we are.  I loved it when they did that stuff in URINETOWN, but it bothered me a little here.  My friend said to me after the show, "Once that reference was made, I understood how to watch it, because it didn't initially seem like it would go in that direction."  Now, I'm feeling like if they have to call out to the audience what it is, something's probably a little off.
We both felt there were a couple of things that were a little off about this show, as hard as it tries.  I mean, the first number, "Madrid", tries to set the tone, but with lyrics like, “Madrid is my mama/Give me the nipple, Every day I’m gonna taste it./The tears and the drama/Ten tons of mama-milk and not a drop is wasted”?  Really?  M'kay.  The scenic design and staging step in to do most of the work as far as setting the tone.  I did enjoy most of Yazbek's Latin flavored music, but his lyrics fall short.  With all of the vibrantly colored projections, fast moving set pieces flying in and out, and walkways all over the stage, it is a feast for the eyes, but sadly, you get the feeling they're trying to wow the crowd and make up for weaknesses in the musical's book.  Something about the tone of the piece isn't well maintained throughout, and some of the numbers seemed to come out of nowhere, which is a shame with such a powerhouse cast -- who do the best they can with what they're given.  Scott, the main character of the show, ends up being overshadowed by big numbers like LuPone's "Invisible" (who gets the most emotional song), and Benanti, who steals the show with a hilarious patter song called "Model Behavior" (at 4min. 36sec. in the clip below).  I saw the two of them last year in GYPSY, and it was wonderful to see them again.  I love them so...
Patti LuPone (Lucia)
and Brian Stokes Mitchell (Ivan).
Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
All of the kinks with the lyrics and book may not have been ironed out completely, but I liked it, was very entertained, and walked out of there feeling like I'd seen a big Broadway show, so I'm good.  And yes, I stage-doored like a mofo.
Random Stuff:
So there was a little commotion down on the far end of our row -- some woman got kinda loud with an usher.  Something having to do with the usher shining a light in her face.  The woman got louder and louder and had to literally be dragged out.  Took 'em long enough.  I was starting to get pissed off.  On a happier note, Stephanie J. Block was a couple seats down from us.  If you remember back to my very first blog, you know I love her.  We chatted during the intermission, and I was quite pleased about not embarrassing myself or anything.


WOMEN ON THE VERGE Cast
WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN

Book by Jeffrey Lane
Music/lyrics by David Yazbek
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Belasco Theatre, 111 West 44th St. New York, NY
limited run | tickets: $36.50  - $126.50 
Performances Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays to Saturdays at 8pm,
Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2pm, Sundays at 3pm
Cast:
de'Adre Aziza (Paulina), Laura Benanti (Candela), Danny Burstein (Taxi Cab Driver), Justin Guarini (Carlos), Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Marisa), Patti LuPone (Lucia), Brian Stokes Mitchell (Ivan), Mary Beth Peil (Concierge) and Sherie Rene Scott (Pepa).
Creative:
Source Material by Pedro Almodóvar; choreography by Christopher Gattelli; sets by Michael Yeargan; costumes by Catherine Zuber; lighting by Brian MacDevitt; sound by Scott Lehrer; projections by Sven Ortel; aerial design by The Sky Box; special effects by Gregory Meeh; wigs and hair by Charles LaPointe; make-up by Dick Page; orchestrations by Simon Hale.

4 comments:

  1. Nice to hear a reaction from outside the NY theatre community. Still, what you say mirrors pretty closely what all my theatre friends have been saying... Shame...

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  2. Yeah. I hear there may not be a cast recording either, which makes me sad. Would love to have one.

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  3. SIGH...love Patti Lupone and LOVE Brian Stokes Mitchell! The plot sounds complicated and hard to get into. Did you find it ultimately rewarding once it all came together...and was it a relief, or was it a delightful surprise, know what I mean? Sometimes the complicated plot rewards us at the end, sometimes its just a relief the damn torture is over! LOL! As for Urinetown...I know what you mean...that tactic worked in Urinetown. BTW, did I tell you that my Brother-in-law was the life coach for the guy who produced Urinetown? We got second row seats to see it in NY ages ago...probably the last B'way play I saw before I left NYC in 2002.

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  4. I loved it when they all started to come together -- like on of those Robert Altman movies. I can't say I was really surprised, but things were tied up relatively nicely, if not predictably.

    Yeah, I like URINETOWN. Saw it at the Rep a few years ago.

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