Beauty-school dropouts


By Caitlin Barton & Jamie Melser
Directed by Richard Hinojosa
snootyhick productions
The Actor's Playground Theater
412 8th Avenue, 2nd fl. (352-3101)
Non-union production (closes October 19)
Review by Adam Cooper

Sandy and Rizzo return from the grave of Grease as Lower East Side wig designers in Caitlin Barton and Jamie Melser's flimsy hour-long skit, WigShoppe. This uninspired brief collection of vignettes was a showcase for the emerging improvisational skills of its two co-creators, but it was not a coherent dramatic narrative with a developed plotline and organic characters. Instead of a play, this production was a hodge-podge of ill-defined scenes that served the agenda of playing out different accents, postures, and behavior patterns.

Barton and Melser played Fannie and Peggy, two twenty-something going-nowhere types marking time and verbally challenging each other in a dumpy NYC wig shop. Throughout the play a variety of wacky East Village characters pop in and out of their store to interrupt their TV-watching, complaining, and busywork. Ironically, none of these characters actually turn out to be customers. The scenes are loosely held together with derivative plot devices centering on Fannie's career dreams, culminating in the exposure of her prim character as a thief of wig design. Closure is brought to this dilemma when Peggy points out that Fannie's copycat wigs prove she has talent.

The production was roundly amateurish. The weak writing is littered with irrelevant, lifeless dialog that exposes little about the characters and does not move the story forward. The direction (Richard Hinojosa) lacked vision and coherency. Pacing was clunky as one actor exited for a time to assume a different wig and return as another character.

Each character was sheer caricature going no further than sets of mannerisms and traits. As one character seemed to have little in common with the next, the choice of having the three actors play multiple roles was purely mechanical and served solely to play out character shtick. Of the performances, the strongest and most engaging portrayals came from Clint McCown, whose sharp and focused energy gave life and humor to what were otherwise skeletal supporting roles.

The set design (uncredited) was modestly interesting with its assortment of colorful wigs against a black-box background, exuding the feeling of a ragtag homemade Lower East Side establishment. Lighting and sound design (Carlmelo S. Booc) were rudimentary. Costume design (uncredited) was basic but not brilliant.

WigShoppe was a production devoid of such basic essentials as risk, conflict, characterization, and dramatic action. It was really the kind of entertainment designed for family and friends and not a paying audience. As a showcase of improv talent (or improvisational skills), the production might have been more successful as a series of thematically related but self-contained sketches.

Box Score:

Writing: 0
Directing: 0
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 0

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Copyright 2002 Adam Cooper