Heartbreak hotel


Scandal in Manhattan


Written and directed by Bobby Holder

Presented by The Actor's Project NYC (www.TheActorsProjectNYC.com)

Midtown International Theatre Festival (www.midtownfestival.org)
WorkShop Theatre Mainstage,
312 W. 36th Street, 4th Floor
Non-equity (through
July 30, 2008)
Review by Byrne Harrison


When farce is done well, it's a wild ride full of laughs, mayhem, sex and slapstick. When it's done poorly, it's like watching paint dry. Scandal in Manhattan, Bobby Holder's comic murder-mystery, tends to fall into the second category. Hampered by an overly complex and confusing script and poor direction, Scandal tends to rack up more misses than hits.


The story revolves around Marge and Dove Colgate Zest (Brittany Bell Spencer and Elizabeth Phillipp), two young Southern belles in love with the same man, the strapping wannabe singer/songwriter Michael Young Buck (Evan Dahme). After the family patriarch's "accidental" death by roach poison, Dove and Michael flee to New York City, with Marge hot on their trail. They all check into a seedy midtown hotel with a wildly flamboyant manager (Joe Iozzi), his ditzy boy-crazy assistant (Kelly Kemp) and cast of wacky guests, tourists and criminals. Hijinks ensue.


Holder's story has its moments. The love triangle between Marge, Dove and Michael, and the mystery of what happened to the late Mr. Colgate Zest are good jumping off points. A subplot involving an obsessed stalker (Ed Malone) who wants to kidnap Dove, though never adequately explained, does provide some interesting complications. The primary weakness of the script is that Holder has filled it with too many zany, and often unbelievable, characters and situations. While having some people be over-the-top can be great fun, they need to be offset by some good old-fashioned straight men. Groucho Marx was funny. Groucho playing off Margaret Dumont was sublime. Scandal could use a Margaret Dumont or two.


The cast is genial, and they seem to be giving it the old college try, though Holder as director tends to cut them loose when the focus of the scene is elsewhere. For some of the actors, this means that they stand there quietly until it's their turn to talk again, jumping back into character until the dialogue goes elsewhere, leaving them once more adrift. For others, those lulls provide an opportunity to mug shamelessly, performing stage business that is unneeded and often unmotivated. Among the better performances in the play are Ed Malone, as Edward the kidnapper, and Elizabeth Phillipp as Dove Colgate Zest.


There are glimmers of light in this current production of Scandal in Manhattan, but the overall effect is that it's trying just a little too hard to be funny. Good farce takes a lot of work, but it should look as effortless as slipping on a banana peel.


(Scandal in Manhattan also features Michael Mastu, Mimi Rodriguez, Tina Xenos, Rose Costanzo, Robert King and Renee Iovine)



Box Score:


Writing: 1

Directing: 0

Acting: 1

Sets: 1

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1


Copyright 2008 by Byrne Harrison


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