Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Charles Busch's Screwball Comedy
You Should Be So Lucky centers around Christopher (Patrick Michael Dukeman), a down on his luck timid gay electrologist who insists that he is professional. He makes friends with a straight elderly client named Mr. Rosenberg (Richard Wenzel), who is a friendless millionaire. The old man likes Christopher as a son so much that he arranges for the young lad to attend a fancy charity ball, providing him with an Armani tux and a rented white Rolls Royce. At the ball, our hero meets the man of his dreams, Walter (Scott Cox), a neurotic third rate publicist.
Christopher's gayness is lost on the elderly straight Jewish man, and over the course of several weeks, he takes the younger as a protégé. He also takes treatments from him and during electrolysis the old man suffers heart failure. Much to the surprise of Christopher, the old man has left him 10 million dollars. However, trouble occurs when Rosenberg's estranged and spitting mad daughter Lenore (Adrienne Krug) arrives on the scene. This Jewish princess from Scarsdale has also inherited 10 million dollars, but she wants it all. The father and daughter never got along, and she says of her father, "In the department store of his heart, there was no merchandise."
The farce includes talk show hostess Wanda Wan (Laura Sottile) and Christopher's flaky sister Polly (Camilla Busnovetsky), who is an over the top actress from Albuquerque and talks like a combination Lynn Fontaine, Tallulah and Judith Anderson.
Charles Busch's screwball comedy is a hit and miss affair. The playwright has thrown everything into the 2 and ½ hour parody but "the kitchen sink." It moves in fits and starts. He tries complete camp along with Noel Coward comedy. Busch even resurrects Rosenberg from the dead, dressing him in a white tux and looking like Elvira in Coward's Blithe Spirits. He has Christopher doing an idiotic "three faces of Eve" role, playing two deceased members of Rosenberg's family; this stops the flow of the farce. Fortunately, the playwright honed his comedy writing skills for his latest hit, Tales of the Allergist Wife.
Patrick Michael Dukeman (who has done excellent work at the NCTC with The Mystery of Irma Vep and When Pigs Fly) is good as the shy recluse but tends to go over board in several scenes, such as the floundering television interviewer and the voices from the deceased. Both smack of a TV sitcom. Andrienne Krug is hilariously hysterical as the Scarsdale princess wearing big frame glasses. She bites into her role with enthusiasm and she reminds me of Andrea Martin in one of her scenes from Second City.
Scott Cox is excellent as the doting love interest of Christopher. The character has come from sunny San Bernadino to find the "dark side of Manhattan." His take on a third rate publicist is right on the mark (I knew several of them when working in Hollywood). Camilla Busnovetsky is fun when she completely overacts as an "overacting actress" who is "on" all the time. (I knew some of them, also). Richard Wenzel and Laura Sottile do as well as expected in less showy roles.
On the whole, Christopher Jenkins' direction is fast paced, especially after the first two scenes, when the fast and furious action starts. The set by Cat Stevans is baroquely decorated and is certainly claustrophobic - there must over one hundred things in this tiny West Village apartment, including hand painted gourds that our hero loves to paint (I told you he is one weird person).
I wish this production had played in the larger theatre of the conservatory, since it is a physical comedy. The small band box theater has no heightened stage and this prevents the audience from seeing all of the movements of the actors in certain scenes. As a result, you have the frantic farce right in your face.
You Should Be So Lucky plays through January 4, 2004 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave at Market, San Francisco. For tickets, call the box office at 415-861-8972 or on line at www.nctcsf.org.