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SUV: The Musical!
Fluffy Bunnies in a Field of Daisies

Theatre Reviews by Matthew Murray

SUV: The Musical!

Satire, as George S. Kaufman said, is what closes on Saturday night. The Saturday in question with SUV: The Musical! is August 27, and it can't come soon enough. Yet another musical with Urinetown's molded-plastic humor but lacking its artistic or theatrical pretensions, SUV is overlong (nearly two hours and twenty minutes--without intermission--regardless of what anyone tells you), underwritten, poorly composed, and so low on gas that it'll have you longing for the wit inherent in most 10-car pileups.

The good guy is Max Blank (Adam Wolfsdorf), a clueless but heroic environmentalist who violently disapproves of the latest monstrosity being produced by the Behemoth Motor Corporation, the Destroyer. So massive that it would dwarf a Hummer, it's the brainchild of Dick Johnson (Christian Maurice) who's firmly of the belief that--as states in his meandering establishing song--"Bigger is Better." He's married, of course, to the lovely Sarah (Dina Plotch), and if you can't figure out who and what get in the way of their marriage and how it all turns out, then you're not trying much harder than librettist Gersh Kuntzman or composer Marc Dinkin.

The songs are typical at best and endless at worst; just about every number could have two or three verses cut to no ill effect. Mildly interesting melodies, like the Beach Boys-styled ones for "My Little Yugo" are ravaged by terrible lyrics that seldom rhyme and even more infrequently scan well; other numbers, like "How Did Your Oil Get Under Our Sand?" for an Arab oil broker (Derek Roland) and "Mr. 203" for a lovesick, anthropomorphic crash dummy (Jerry Miller), are incongruous to the point of otherworldly.

Director Eric Oleson has staged the show like a traffic accident; only Gian Marco Lo Forte's whimsically mammoth automobile set pieces (best utilized in a surprisingly clever scene set on a freeway) redeem the proceedings visually. The performers are all revved up and raring to go, and with the exception of the shamelessly broad Maurice, act and sing perfectly well within the show's strictures. But those limitations don't make SUV: The Musical! more palatable, but instead make you long for the intelligence, wit, and trenchant insight that separate good or even mediocre satire from, well, SUV: The Musical!

SUV: The Musical!
Through August 27
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes, with no intermission
Village Theater, 158 Bleecker Street, Between Sullivan & Thompson (East of 6th Avenue)
TICKETS: www.FringeNYC.org or by calling (212) 279-4488. Outside New York: 1-888-FringeNYC

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Fluffy Bunnies in a Field of Daisies

First off, the title shouldn't be taken literally. And no, this isn't a wall-to-wall raunch-fest. But Fluffy Bunnies in a Field of Daisies does manage to be both completely obvious and totally subversive, injecting real meaning where you'd least expect it: a drunken, love-and-sex-fueled romp with four thirtysomethings longing to escape their ruts and just "be," preferably with someone they love "being" with. Oddly, its being gasp-for-air funny is almost incidental.

It's less the specific gags than the characters' interactions that make every joke land and land hard. Of the central quartet (like the comedy, very Seinfeldian - three men and a woman): The intimacy-intimidated Baby Boy can barely complete a coherent sentence and is routinely, if affectionately, tricked by his friends; Tommy is obsessed with unearthing one of Jennifer's not-so-secret secrets, at any cost to her privacy; the tall, lanky Nick is clueless about most relationship matters and will never settle for sex when conversation will do.

The dating escapades of Baby Boy and Nick fill most of the show, but there's never a moment empty of delight. From four-word conversations of surprising dramatic (and humor) value ("Hey."/"Hey."/"Uh-oh."/"Yeah.") to a boisterous '70s-throwback dance to open the second act, writer-director Matt Chaffee is never at a loss for ideas, and never without a cast member - or four or six - who will bring them hilariously and even sentimentally to life.

Chaffee leads the flawless comedic ensemble as aging frat-boy type Tommy, but everyone deserves a mention. Samuel Bliss Cooper raises the roof with his clear-eyed confusion at matters social and sexual; Richard Gunn is a lovably dumb but well-meaning Nick; and Jenna Mattison's sly delivery and ingratiating underhandedness make for a perfect Jennifer. Supporting cast members are just as good: Sangini Majmudar (who's also responsible for the rollicking choreography) is riotous as a woman who gets a little too involved with the men she dates; Jackie Freed is a ditzy dynamo as Nick's on-again-off-again girlfriend; Geneviere Anderson is subtle and sexy as an antiques shop owner with an quirky sideline; and Elizabeth Clemmons unlocks the play's latent heart as a girl who unexpectedly comes onto Baby Boy.

She has something to hide, of course, but who doesn't? This play celebrates such mysteries, whether revealed or held close, among friends and those we want to be closer to. It's also a tribute to the rituals and vernaculars that hold together small groups who want nothing more than to simply "be," and its statements about life and love are as true as they come (and considerably funnier). The only depressing truth about this show is that it's only gracing New York for one more week.

Fluffy Bunnies In A Field Of Daisies
Through August 25
Running Time: 2 hours
SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street (6th Ave & Varick / 7th Avenue)
TICKETS: www.FringeNYC.org or by calling (212) 279-4488. Outside New York: 1-888-FringeNYC