Talk of the Town


Adapted from Dorothy Parker's works
Directed by Ted Sluberski
42nd Street WorkShop
432 W. 42nd St., 5th fl. (695-4173)
Equity showcase (closes Mar. 11)
Review by James A. Lopata

Didn't anybody attempt this earlier? The 42nd Street WorkShop has adapted Dorothy Parker's short stories into a delightful evening of theatre entitled Parker. Sitting here, five flights up on 42nd Street, is to witness the quintessence of The New Yorker magazine from the mid-to-early 20th century, come to life.

Evoking a cozy corner of a 1930s nightclub, the plush red upholstery and black curtains by an uncredited designer provided a perfect backdrop for the beautiful, uncredited period flapper costumes and zoot suits. Does anyone still wear a hat? Yes they do, and brilliant ones at that. And despite the fact that the men in these pieces are often oblivious to their ladies' good sartorial tastes, the fine clothes were worth noting.

Jazz and classical underscoring chosen by the astute Eric Willhelm, and moody, speakeasy lighting by sharp-eyed Dalila Kee, added zip to this cocktail-party atmosphere. Parker's stunning array of characters felt right at home here, in their pursuit of love and companionship.

The opening sketch, Here We Are, finds two newlyweds negotiating new territory. The frightened female virgin - portrayed by the frenetic and lovable Tracey Lee Bell - in an effort to put off the virtually inevitable marriage consummation, chattered constantly about nothing. As her boorish husband - played by the amusingly comic actor, Tony Hale - succinctly puts it, she became "yippy". At one point, he stared at her pointedly and declared, "You're crazy!" She is. All of the women during the evening are.

Take the sly, manipulating lady in You Were Perfectly Fine, played by Veronique JeanMarie with a glint in her eye. She takes advantage of a suddenly humbled, formerly pompous specimen of manhood, played by the charming Sidney Williams. She convinces him that he perpetrated self-incriminating actions while he was drunk.

In the next sequence, The Lovely Leave, Jill Jackson acted with aplomb the role of an oversensitive wife who finds it difficult to compete with her husband's affection for his wartime responsibilities. James McCauley solidly marched his character to the beat of the army drum, as a strong, straight-forward lieutenant.

A smiling and affable Kathleen O'Grady put on her best but manic face for a Runyonesque dude - played with testorone by the talented Michael Conners - who is dumping her over tea.

And finally, the very gifted Suzie Devoe, drowning her character's sorrows in highballs at her regular watering hole, tries to stave off loneliness as old age sets in.

The entire evening was cleverly woven together by voiceover threads of a radio interview between Studs Terkel and Dorothy Parker from 1959.

Ted Sluberski charmingly directed the piece as a precious evening of literate theatre. If you've ever dreamed of having cartoons from The New Yorker start moving and talking, here's your chance. It would be nice to see larger commercial productions get as much mileage out of simple elements as did this low-budget, Off-Off-Broadway show.
Box Score

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 1
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2000 James A. Lopata