One excellent actor, a multitude of costumes and wigs, and a plot that includes murder, infidelity, and a desperate housewife: certainly the ingredients for a compelling evening of theatre. However, in the City's production of Robert Hewett's The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead, the ingredients take a little too long to jell, and ultimately, fall flat.
Tony Award winning actress Michele Pawk is a true pro, an accomplished actress who excels in musical theatre and dramatic plays. She seems to relish taking on challenging roles, and this one is a doozy, narrating alone on the stage as seven characters, each with a distinct personality and appearance. The characters are presented in a series, and Pawk rides a turntable as she changes outfits and wigs, mostly within our sight, as the story is told piece by piece, character by character. This works in holding our attention, and the changes are accomplished quite well, but it's a big build-up to a less than satisfying ending.
Pawk's energy doesn't flag, and her acting skills are tested (she passes with nearly flying colors), though there could be more variation in vocal inflection and her physicality can't quite pull off the portrayal of the rough-talking, misogynistic, obnoxious bully at the center of the story (and, honestly, the character himself seems out of place, especially considering that he has supposedly attracted the attention of all three titular characters). A couple other characters seem too much on the fringe of the story to be featured, which makes the multiple-role idea appear gimmicky. This is an oft-produced show around the world, and I will admit the opening night audience was very enthusiastic (though opening night audiences are often difficult to read), but the story is more fizzle than sizzle for me.
Tony Ferrieri's set is a gem, seeming so simple and plain at the beginning, but developing in a practical as well as attractive way as the show goes on (aided by Andrew David Ostrowski's lighting). The show needs to zip along, and the pace here is a tad uneven, but that may be due to the structure of the pice (Lou Jacob directs). The significant and impressive wig design is by Elsen Associates, Inc.
The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead continues at City Theatre through May 30. For performance and ticket information, call 412.431.CITY (2489) or visit www.citytheatrecompany.org/.