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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

Women's Theatre Inaugurates New Home with
A ... My Name is Alice

A ... My Name is Alice
Back Row Left to right: Teisha Bader, Marisa Merrigan, Robin Marie Thomas, Maggie Letsche; Kneeling Left to right: Margaret Leone; Jodie Trappe
Produced by the Women's Project of the American Place Theatre, A ... My Name is Alice opened in a tiny basement space in that New York theatre in 1984. Right from the start, the simply presented, unadorned Alice proved to be the little musical revue that could. Never maudlin nor preachy, the bright little musical revue containing 20 or so self-contained songs and sketches portrayed women of all ages and types in a wide variety of situations and relationships with insight, empathy and self deprecating humor.

Thus, it is both appropriate and felicitous that New Jersey's Women's Theatre Company has chosen A ... My Name is Alice as the inaugural production at the Parsippany Playhouse, its intimate new basement theatre.

Conceived and originally directed by Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd, Alice was developed in a workshop process with the work of 28 composers and writers making it to the final cut. The resultant musical revue proved to be rich in variety and maintained an enviably consistent high level of quality.

Women's Theatre Artistic Director Barbara Krajkowski has followed the original blueprint in keeping things simple and maintaining a fast pace. A brightly lit white backdrop and two small pedestals is all the stage decoration that is needed. The two act review is now presented in one act, and some material has been cut, notably the song "Sisters" and the extended pieces "Emily the M.B.A." and "Detroit Persons/Educated Feet."

The evening opens and closes with the entire cast performing Doug Karsanos and David Zippel's exuberant anthem to women's freedom and solidarity, "All Girl Band." The mixture of humor and insight that marks Alice is evident immediately thereafter in the title piece by Marta Kauffman and David Crane in which each of the five (actually, there are six here) member cast "introduces" herself by reciting an adult update on the children's ABC rhyme. One example:

A ... my name is Alice
And my husband's name is Adam
And his girlfriend's name is Amy
And my lover's name is Abby
And her husband's name is Arnie
And his boyfriend's name is Allan
And my analyst's name is Arthur
And we're working on my anger

Robin Marie Thomas is a delightful comic presence playing the more mature roles. In "Welcome to Kindergarten" (music by Michael Skloff/ lyrics by Marta Kauffman and David Crane), Thomas shines as the smug and narrow-minded teacher who infantilizes a successful career woman and calls her a "bad mother" because of her encouragement of her daughter's independent thinking. She also does well by the reader of the three poems "for women only," although these satires of tortured women's poetry have aged less well than the balance of the material.

Marissa Merrigan captures the quiet poignancy of a mature woman's memory of her beloved mother in her rendition of Amanda McBroom's lovely "The Portrait" ("Mama, don't leave me."). Merrigan is delightful singing the nonsensically cobbled together string of French and French-sounding phrases satirizing phony French chanteuses (music and lyrics by Don Tucker).

The youngest roles are charmingly played by Jodie Trappe. She strongly delivers "Good Thing I Learned to Dance" (music by Stephen Lawrence/ lyrics by Mark Saltzman). Teisha Bader, along with Thomas, nicely performs the Anne Meara sketch about the mouthy construction worker taken down a few pegs. They duet on "Friends" ("call me in the morning" - lyric by Georgia Halof and music by David Metee), which describes the comforts of a through the years and tears friendship. Bader gets to perform the lovely Lucy Simon (music)/ Steve Tesich (lyrics) "I Sure Like the Boys (who like to dance slow)."

That "bad mother" mentioned above is amusingly played and sung by Maggie Letsche. Primarily a cabaret singer, Letsche scores big with the torchy "Pay Them No Mind" (lyrics and music by Calvin Alexander and James Shorter). Margaret Leone is also prominently featured. Unfortunately, she performs at a level more appropriate to community rather than professional theatre.

Costumer Kim Cokelet dresses the performers in casual to elegant black, adding bright colors in the form of costume pieces and accessories as the revue progresses.

Despite uneven casting, the many charms of A ... My Name is Alice are readily apparent in this unfussy, fast-paced Women's Theatre production. It should serve well in introducing the Women's Theatre Company to the Parsippany community.

A ... My Name is Alice continues performances (Fri. & Sat. 8 p.m./ Sun. 2 p.m.) through April 15, 2006 at the Women's Theatre Company's Parsippany Playhouse, 1130 Knoll Road, Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey. Box office: 973-316-3033/ online: www.womenstheatercompany.org/

A ... My Name is Alice conceived by Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd; directed by Barbara Krajkowski

Cast (in alphabetical order)
Teisha Bader / Margaret Leone / Maggie Letsche /
Marisa Merrigan / Robin Marie Thomas / Jodie Trappe


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- Bob Rendell



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