Also see Ann's recent review of Miss Saigon
Part bio-play, part musical, part romantic comedy, Claudia Shear's Dirty Blonde uses a three person cast to tell the story of Mae West fans Jo and Charlie, and to provide insight into the life and legend of Mae West. The current production at Pittsburgh Public Theatre achieves both goals well, providing a very entertaining evening.
Ryan Dunn appears as both Jo and Mae West. Dunn is a natural, accessible actress; though her depiction of West may not involve a total immersion, she goes deeper than simply providing the stereotypical impressionist's delivery. Dunn is most capable as West during scenes of visits in her later years with young Charlie. Her Jo is frank and engaging - a very straightforward portrayal. Lucas Caleb Rooney is equally versatile in his presentation of the young Charlie as well as the present day Charlie, and of several supporting characters. Rooney's performance as Charlie is touching and very well done. Dunn and Rooney have a certain chemistry, and they illustrate the attraction of Jo and Charlie as the loners form a bond.
Supporting player Tom Frey portrays many incidental characters and provides most of the musical presentations of the evening. He gives very balanced characterizations - entertaining yet appropriately non-scene-stealing. Frey, a talented musician (having played over 200 performances of Two Pianos/Four Hands ) is also the music director for this production.
Anne Mundell's scenic design, basically a red-curtained art deco style stage proscenium and arch, plus a multi-level tile floor space reaching out into the Public's three-sided thrust space, works quite well. I'm not sure how well it plays to all sides of the audience, but it seems to be an effective design for this show in this space. Costumes by David R. Zyla are excellent (and they must be constructed well for the frequent very quick changes).
Dirty Blonde continues at the O'Reilly Theater for the Pittsburgh Public Theater through July 6. For ticket and schedule information, call 412-316-1600 or visit www.ppt.org.