Front Row Center – February 2020

Front Row Center

By Michael Warren

Twentieth Century Blues
By Susan Miller
Directed by Kevin Cook

front row

 

Susan Miller is a prolific playwright best known for her moving one-woman show My Left Breast. This play is about the trials and some of the pleasures of aging, a subject to which many of us can relate.

The play opens with “Danny” giving a TED talk where she tells us about how she and three friends met in lock-up in the swinging ‘70’s. The four women have kept in touch over the next forty years, and Danny – a professional photographer – has taken a group photo every year at their annual reunion. Now the Museum of Modern Art is offering her the opportunity of a retrospective exhibition of those pictures. And so we have the scene set for a sentimental one-act play. Unfortunately Ms. Miller tries to expand it into two long-winded acts, and the result is saccharine sweet and rather boring.

Debra Bowers plays “Danny” with some skill, and her friends “Gabby,” “Mac” and “Sil” are well portrayed by Collette Clavadetscher, Connie Davis and Georgette Richmond. But nothing much happens in a long first act that lacks pace and tension. The only issue is whether the three women will sign a waiver that MOMA requires for the proposed exhibit. Sil, who is a realtor and who incidentally is planning cosmetic surgery, doesn’t want people to see her pre-surgery face. And Mac is an investigative reporter who wonders about displaying her past.

This is not exactly high drama, so there’s also a lot of hugging and some humorous reminiscing. I enjoyed the reference to The Vagina Monologues when one of the characters wondered why she ever looked at her vagina in the mirror. There are no husbands around, they are either divorced or dead. Actually Gabby has a live husband, but she is already rehearsing widowhood by living at the YWCA. She’s a vet, and at one point in the play she gets a phone call about one of her patients. The dog died – oh well, it was probably for the best. To pad out the play, we get to meet Danny’s mother “Bess” and her adopted son “Simon.” Chris L’Ecluse plays Bess with remarkable vigor, considering that she is living in a nursing home and has mental lapses. She can remember the first lines of “Stand By Me” and belts it out as she leaves the stage. And newcomer Nicholas Cumplido (“Simon”) gets a hug from Danny and permission to go look for his birth mother.

The problem with the play is that it’s all too predictable – there’s no discovery about the past, and the author puts sugar icing on an already sweet cake. “Are you ever going to reveal your secret French toast ingredient?” Sil asks. “Love,” Danny replies. All the same, I have to report that the audience gave the cast a standing ovation at the final curtain, so the play was a box office success. Congratulations to cast and crew, and to director Kevin Cook. Karen Lee was Stage Manager, and Douglas Voet was Producer. Next up is the musical My Fair Lady which opens on February 21 – it should be great entertainment.

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