The power of positive thinking

Altar Ego

Written and performed by Ronit Ray
Directed by Cheryl Stern
Musical direction by Charlie Alterman
Don't Tell Mama
Non-union production (closed)
Review by John Chatterton

Ronit Ray's fetching cabaret act, Altar Ego, is the prosaic side of Sex in the City. She's not just a girl who cain't say no - she's a girl who buys a Tiffany's $40,000 wedding ring, tries to register with the bridal registry, and starts trying on wedding dresses before she even meets a man.

The evening takes place in Saks, as she tries on a wedding dress. She's had three relationships (Bachelors #1, 2, and 3), all of which have failed. (One was a Christian, who didn't want to have sex; one was an Israeli army captain, who didn't speak English and fell in love with someone else; and the other was, predictably, perfect - but gay.) The songs, which range across the pop- and show-tune map, are either straight or modified by Ray and director Cheryl Stern, à la Forbidden Broadway. Ray intersperses them with comic patter about her unsuccessful search for a perfect mate and her planning ahead for the Great Day.

Ray had a winning manner, with solid comic timing and a strong but attractive voice. It was a pleasure to not sit through a love story drenched in sentimentality, bathos, or cynicism. At the end, she convinces herself that she doesn't, after all, need to fixate on her future mate and doesn't have to buy all this stuff anyway, leaving Saks with a new-found sense of confidence. If only all therapy could be had for a $10 cover and two-drink minimum!

Director Stern wisely limited the production to the absolute minimum, using Mama's disco ball for a diamond-ring effect and a sprinkler pipe as a clothing rack. They even had a starscape backdrop for the finale. The non-choices for the other lighting effects, alas, seemed to have nothing to do with the individual numbers.

The pacing of dramatic bridges and musical numbers was brisk. Charlie Alterman's musical direction and accompaniment were discreet and supportive.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2001 John Chatterton