Camp tuna

The Vicar's Wife

By Dave Mowers
Directed by Rob Chambers
Common Ground/Greenwich Street Theatre
547 Greenwich Street (212) 604-4222
Equity Showcase Production
Through October 12
Review by Marshall Yaeger

This windy work was probably a true story about a gay parishioner who fell for the vicar. The author beat the situation like a hapless, shaggy dog.

Philosophically, the play just about skimmed the surface of the tuna casserole for which the composer (Mischa Kischkum) wrote a ballet number. The recipe (for the victually-impaired) was in the program.

The autobiographical piece had the air of a stand-up comic monologue, which was how it originated. By expanding to play form, the author seemed to lose the artistic discipline that fiction demands. Thus he quoted his dead grandparents' letters, offering resonance mainly to him. There was one touching story about attending Communion with his father. But then he would reveal how he prefers second fiddle in sex. Thus, in the Kleenex box theatre, with the actor's head-mike taking no prisoners, the play became too intimate. The smell of the casserole, dismissed after the ballet, drifted in the stale air. It was like sleeping too close to a lover's breath.

The writing had good lines, such as a lyrical passage celebrating angels in America that Kushner never thought of. But calling Karen Grassley a drunken slut seemed libelous.

Mowers, the actor, labored hard and sweat neatly, obviously loving what he did. He was chubby with charm and cute with smile. Stripping to reveal a body that should perhaps spend more time at his gym--so over-promoed it must owe him a lifetime membership--Mowers preened like a flamenco dancer to exude gay ``Style''--for which he rummaged everywhere--even in the Crucifixion scene.

Musically, the composer's bag of tricks was small, but gave the de rigueur style for the piece. Solid ``hooks'' they did not give. The music's disposable complexity also fit the lyrics.

A Supremes-like trio (Amanda Patterson, Dorcas Johnson, and Melanie Ron) consisting of two okay female voices and one that sounded like her mike went all funny, formed a mock Greek chorus behind the protagonist.

The director moved things around a bit sluggishly, but brought some imagination to the work, as in a scene where Mowers ploddingly worked an imaginary Stairmaster.

The lighting by John Tees, III was okay. But for the set, well, what can you say about a kitchen table and chairs after you've said ``I'm sorry''? Actually, one of the stars of the play was the Christmas star, which was admittedly pretty fabulous, and which lifted the rating for the Set a point.

The show begged for fabulousness; and, indeed, the mylar skirts, some hats, and the grotesque rhinestone earrings (design was by Kevin Brainerd) did have lots of stylish glitter.

Warning to the Politically Correct: the play is not. Treating gay marriage as a comic travesty is probably the last thing those advocating family values for gays desire.

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 2
Set 1
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1996 Marshall Yaeger

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