Chicago Theatre Review
Is There Any Good Way to Say Good bye?
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown – Theatre at the Center
In an explosion of color and a blast of exciting, pulsating trumpet and percussion, Bill Pullinsi’s delightfully wicked production, which is an homage to the 80’s, bursts onto the Munster stage like fireworks…and never lets up. It’s difficult to understand why this show didn’t work in its 2010 Lincoln Center premier but, despite an all-star Broadway cast, the musical was panned and the production closed earlier than expected. Adapted from Pedro Almodovar’s popular, award-winning 1988 film, the musical features a book by television and stage writer Jeffrey Lane, with a lush, lively Latin-infused score by the talented composer, David Yazbek (“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “The Full Monty”).
A blend of comic emcee and Greek chorus, the Taxi Driver, played with giddy enthusiasm by George Andrew Wolff, slinks into the spotlight, wriggling and writhing in his shiny saffron jacket and plaid slacks. He opens the show with the toe-tapping “Madrid (is my Mama),” setting the tone for what lies ahead. Disguised as a madcap musical comedy, the audience is about to encounter a screwball love story gone insanely awry.
The audience first meets Pepa, perfectly played by the multitalented Cory Goodrich, sprawled on her bed in a provocative lingerie while her telephone answering machine plays a final message from her lover Ivan that sets the plot in motion. Ms. Goodrich creates a Pepa who’s smart, spunky and sexy. She’s a hotblooded Spanish actress known primarily for her popular TV commercials, but Pepa also dubs the voices for foreign films. Ivan was not only her live-in lover for twelve years but also her costar in many films. His telephone message is to the point: “Is there any good way to say good- bye?” This sets into motion all the twists and turns that drive the momentum of this play, propelling everyone toward intermission and ultimately to the musical’s zany finale.
Along the way audiences meet Lucia, the wife Ivan left years ago, just before she checked into a mental institution. She’s played with careful aim and wild abandon by Chicago’s first lady of the theatre, Hollis Resnik. The actress not only showcases her finesse as a musical actress (her renditions of both the 60‘s-inspired “Time Stood Still” and her hilarious courtroom deposition “Invisible” are standouts), but Ms. Resnik kills with her perfect comic timing and dry delivery. Finally the audience makes the acquaintance of bubbly Candela, Pepa’s flaky, romantic, oversexed gal pal, who works in fashion photography. Played with little girl giddiness and promiscuous playfulness, Summer Naomi Smart has never been funnier…or lovelier. Her comedic patter song, “Model Behavior,” is a highlight of this production.
With a mellow baritone that makes the ladies swoon, Larry Adams, one of Chicago’s greatest singing actors, plays the roving cad, Ivan. A smarmy playboy with an uncontrollable lust for women, Mr. Adams oils his way around the stage, seducing everyone he encounters. His numbers are all splendid but Adams particularly shows his stuff in “The Microphone” and “Lie to Me.” As the only child of such larger-than-life parents as Lucia and Ivan, their son Carlos, played with warmth, humor and nerdy charm by the gifted Nathan Gardner, has obviously inherited their musical talent. Audiences will not only be charmed by this young actor’s persona but will find he possesses the voice of an angel. Carlos‘ fiancee Marisa is played by the beautiful, sultry triple threat, Dina DiCostanzo. Although the number goes on a little too long, the actress finally gets a chance to break out and strut her stuff in the balletic, “Marisa’s Dream.”
Bill Pullinsi, collaborating with Choreographer Danny Herman and Musical Director William Underwood (who also conducts the show’s pulsating, Spanish orchestra), has masterfully directed a brisk, highly entertaining, melodic and visually exciting production that never disappoints. Costumed in vibrant jewel tone period fashions by Brenda Winstead and performed upon Ann N. Davis‘ expressionistic, flexible set, this wonderful, seldom-seen musical showcases the talents of some of Chicago’s finest talents. For an evening of madness and sheer escape, spiced with saucy Mediterranean heat and fervor, this is the musical to see.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented September 13-October 12 by Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Rd., Munster, IN.
Tickets are available at the box office by calling 219-836-3255, at Tickets.com at 800-511-1552 or by going to www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.