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A ... My Name Is Alice

Conceived by Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd
Directed by Adam M. Muller
Art C. Shlep and Bloody Mary Productions
Producers Club II
616 Ninth Ave. (212/591-1980)
Equity showcase (closes Mar. 30)
Review by Arlene McKanic

The logo of A ... My Name Is Alice, the adorable musical review now at the Producers Club II, was a takeoff on the logo of Charlie’s Angels. But here, instead of a silhouette of four gun-toting, karate-chopping chicks with large hair, there was a woman twirling a basketball, another wielding a hammer, another with a book, another with a guitar. The design was, like the musical, a tribute to women who decide to kick up their heels and follow their bliss.

The action was bookended by five hugely talented and engaging actresses extolling the pleasures of being in an all-girl band that seems to be named Alice. In between are 22 musical numbers and blackout skits, most of them very funny, that celebrate the seasons of girl- and womanhood.

The first number, the clever "At My Age," deals with a 15-year-old, played by the marvelous Donna Vivino, who’s going on her first date ever, and a widow, played by the comfortable Jennifer Allen (playing older than she was), who’s going on her first blind date after her husband’s death. The women pantomimed putting on makeup and jewelry, and stressed over the same things -- "What if he tries to kiss me? What if he doesn’t?"

Ellie Dvorkin, an actress and singer with a great flair for physical comedy, appeared as Mindy, a mousy Queens secretary who longs for her life to resemble the pages of a trashy romance novel.

Dvorkin was also a screamingly funny Angry Feminist Poet, a leering construction worker, a nutty faux-French chanteuse, and a working Mom intimidated by her child’s prissy kindergarten teacher (Allen).

The wonderfully energetic and sexy Soara-Joy Ross performed "I’m Glad I Learned to Dance," first with the enthusiasm of a little girl enamored of tap-dancing, then the joy of a teenager at a party, then the sweaty happiness of a grown, stressed-out, but otherwise together woman at an aerobics class.

The confident and big-voiced Avery Sommers sang a jolly, warm-hearted, and gossipy church lady getting her hair done at a beauty parlor in "Miss Mae."

Vivino shone as a girl discovering her sexuality in "I Sure Like The Boys," and Allen played a psychiatrist who attempts to de-metaphorize the lyrics of Sommers’s raunchy blues singer. "Do you think you can discuss sex without mentioning the contents of your refrigerator?" she asks sweetly. Other numbers take place at a woman’s exhibition basketball tournament, a crummy apartment, a restaurant, a men’s strip joint, an office.

In between the hilarity were moments of heart-wrenching sweetness, as when Ross sang "The Portrait," a song of longing for a deceased mother, when Ross and Vivino enacted a life-long friendship over the phone in "Friends" ("Call me in the morning," is the refrain), and Allen, wrapped in a cuddly sweater and afghan, played an older woman contemplating life with her sister in "Sisters."

The play was directed by Adam M. Muller and choreographed by Ellie Dvorkin, not surprisingly given her robust physicality; the actresses, ran, jumped, danced, and sat still beautifully. The lighting design was unfussy, bathing the stage in medium-bright light for the big numbers and aiming a quiet spotlight on the performer during the solos. The set design was uncluttered, made up of small tables and lavender-and-pink chairs. The All Girl Band + 1 (Miriam Daly on keyboard, Amanda Cannata on drums, and Geoff Countryman -- he’s the plus one, one supposes -- on reeds) sat stage right and created an unobtrusively supportive bed of music that complemented the women’s great vocals. In keeping with the spirit of the show, Daly played, charmingly, in her bare feet.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Arlene McKanic