Hear us roar -- and whine, struggle, and grow

American Women

By Elias Stimac
Special material by Richard Bishoff and Maritza Puello
Directed by Elias Stimac
Lone Star Productions
Raw Space
Non-union production (closed)
Review by David Mackler

Of the 15 short pieces that made up American Women, some were hardly more than sketches, some had hints of more substance, some were perfect encapsulations of a mood or emotion. Some were mere setups for a punchline; the more successful ones were shaded and detailed.

Christina DeRosier came on in Bishoff's Gold Rose, Gold Heart like a film-noir heroine -- blonde hair, black dress -- and talked about the old-style Hollywood actor she was involved with. It was a moving, well-delivered story of a misunderstanding that kept audience interest. Nicole Paradiso was similarly good in Tough Love as an abused woman who finally fights back. Her husband's over 300 lbs., but now he's in intensive care. That she was testifying was revealed late in the story, and it fit the mood and the emotions, all of which were very well conveyed.

Some more comic pieces were Puello's We Should Be Moving Shortly, with Dana Letowsky giving a minute-by-minute replay of her commute, usually 17 minutes, from 66th St to Canal St.; Jumpers had Nicole Paradiso and Susan Bucci as co-workers on a ledge arguing about who had the privilege to jump first; Bucci related the story of an older woman's matchmaker-made date in Puello's Instead I -- they met at a trendy restaurant, but there's no escaping the guy's a deadbeat loser.

Some were better in concept than execution: Playmate had Elysia Annacini as a centerfold model making herself quite comfortable on the couch at her shrink's (Denyse Kidd); Annacini was also good as Eve, who delivers a cogent argument against the thesis of original sin -- she believably blames the snake and Adam, using the tackiness of the fig leaf as her defense.

Some were well-directed, even if they stopped, rather than ended: Every Night is Girl's Night Out had Letowsky, Annacini, and Paradiso all very funny as three different types (sensible, slutty, ditsy) who are lost as they look for a new club, and the flashbacks to their earlier conversations as they bicker and blame each other; Last Call had Cheryl Jacobs and Inez Viegas in the story of a woman relating the story of her first whiskey sour 20 years ago, and the woman who was in an accident she caused. It wasn't terribly believable, but Jacobs was good and the mood of regret was palpable.

A couple were simply loopy: Executive Decision had Bucci and Cecile Evans as a mother and daughter working together in an office even though it's against policy -- so what if the mother owns the company, and is a crackpot to boot? Every daughter has a cross to bear. Evans was also good in Soap Star as an NBC backstage tour guide/soap opera actress (and airhead) who digresses into telling stories of her life; her Valley Girl speech pattern was as funny as it was irritating.

A couple of bits were there just for their punch lines: Still in Love had Letowski telling about the downfall of her relationship after two years -- the revelation that her partner was a woman seemed meant to be a surprise, but it was pointless. New Love had Evans in a slinky dress describing the electricity at the immediate attraction when she met a new man -- well, male, since he's a dog.

Fortune's Fools was funny just for its own sake -- Rita Kalaban desperately seeks help late one night from a phony psychic (Kidd) because she can't decide whether to marry someone named Aloysius, or Russell Crowe. If her quandary is true she needs more than a psychic, but she's happy with the answer. The evening ended with Bishoff's American Women Finale, a speech delivered by DeRosier about American women and how they made historic contributions to every aspect of American life and labor force. It was exuberant but unnecessary, restating the obvious, and seeming to reduce what came before to case studies. This wasn't quite fair, because while some were less than that, some were a whole lot more.

 Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 David Mackler