Friday, September 30, 2011

DIRTY BLONDE • Dramatic License Productions

A clever look at the bawdy, naughty film star, Mae West, is what's on offer at Dramatic License Productions.  Mae West was a true icon, and a pioneer when she started out in vaudeville.  With her sexually provocative stage shows and salacious one-liners, what she may have lacked as far as talent, she made up for with chutzpah, pushing the envelope of censorship.

This play covers a lot of ground considering it has only 3 actors.  It starts off introducing us to Charlie (John Reidy) and Jo (Kim Furlow).  They're two modern day fanatics who LOVE Mae West, and run into each other in a Brooklyn cemetery at Mae's crypt on August 17, the anniversary of her birth.  Jo is a lonely actress who temps more than she acts, and Charlie is a mild, quiet man who works at the New York Public Library Film Archives.  They strike up a friendship, and the ambiguous relationship between these two Mae West devotees grows during the course of the play.  By the end of it, they both get to "be" Mae West -- in a sense.  There are also scenes involving a young Mae (also Kim Furlow), with the various men of her life (John Reidy and B. Weller).  These follow her beginnings on the vaudeville stage, honing her persona, testing the boundaries of what she could get away with, and taking a few tips from a couple of drag queens -- a hilarious scene that suggests these queens helped give Mae West some finishing touches that solidified the indelible images that come to mind when we hear her name.  There are also scenes that show a young Charlie meeting Mae when he was 17 and she was an aging sexpot in her 80's, still trying to work it for all it was worth.  These scenes were some of the most compelling for me, with a rather sad Mae taking delight in looking at old pictures of herself, and Charlie, completely smitten, and Joe Frisco (B. Weller), a long-time friend of Mae's and hanger-on hoping to get lucky again.  Even into her mature years, she insisted that she looked like a woman of 26.

Kim Furlow (Mae West).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Kim Furlow was up to the task of pulling double duty as Mae and Jo.  She does quite a good characterization of Mae West, and approaches both roles with loads of energy.  The fellas end up playing so many people it makes your head spin, and their commitment to each one is first-rate.  John Reidy is wonderful as Charlie along with the other characters he plays, as was B. Weller, who made a very entertaining Joe Frisco.  Again, they were both quite memorable as a couple of drag queens.  These 3 navigate all of their parts with skill, and really work their butts off in the process.  This show must have been a real bitch to direct -- so many time changes, wardrobe changes and scene changes, and director Carolyn Hood handles it pretty well although it was a little unevenly paced at times.  The scenic design by Courtney Sanazaro Sloey involved just a few pieces that got the job done, but at times the set changes took awhile.  That proved a bit distracting.  Justine Brock's lighting design was fine, and the projections used to inform time and place were a nice touch.  Teresa Doggett's costumes were a treat, and there was also lovely piano accompaniment by Jeremy Melton.  All in all, it's a witty, insightful sneak peek into the life of Mae West, with a quirky little romantic storyline at the heart of it.  Only one more weekend to check it out!


Written by Claudia Shear
Conceived by Claudia Shear and James Lapine
Directed by Carolyn Hood
Dramatic License Productions, Chesterfield Mall (upper level entrance, next to Houlihans)
through October 2 | tickets: $22.00 - $25.00
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm

Kim Furlow (Mae/Jo), John Reidy (Charlie/Harry/Jim Timony/Lt. Gregg/Duchess/Kid Moreno/W.C. Fields/Muscleman) and B. Weller (Man/Armando/Joe Frisco/Frank Wallace/Edward Elsner/Ed Hearn/Muscleman).

Costume design by Teresa Doggett; scenic design by Courtney Sanazaro Sloey; lighting design by Justine Brock; sound design by Joseph Pini; musical accompanist, Jeremy Melton; stage manager, Natasha Toro.

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