O mistress mine

Cervix With A Smile

Book and yrics by Elisa DeCarlo
Music by Ellen Mandel
Directed by Ron Cassavale
Midtown International Theatre Festival
Where Eagles Dare
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Charles Battersby

Elisa DeCarlo's show Cervix With A Smile is a smorgasbord of musical numbers, comic monologs, and drama, all with a naughty, irreverent twist. The songs and sketches (written by DeCarlo with music by Ellen Mandel) range in subject from bestiality to S&M to dating Jesus, and more. There's no plot or through-line that holds them all together, but the naughtiness and bawdy humor are a constant throughout the piece.

DeCarlo's writing is the finest aspect of the show, with lines like "I fucked a chicken, is that so wrong?, " and references to Jesus giving his date a burning bush as a corsage. There’s a couple of scenes that add a serious edge to the fun, including a touching one about an aging burlesque star recounting her former success. There’s a very wide variety of characters in the show, all of whom speak with distinct voices, and are brought to life through DeCarlo’s admirable knack for voice work and dialects. Unfortunately, a lot of these bits aren’t terribly original; it’s all enjoyable enough, but does the world need one more Marlene Dietrich impression or Country Western hillbilly gag?

While Cervix... is more or less a one-woman show, DeCarlo was joined by accompanist Tracy Stark and pal Sally Reagan, who both played supporting roles. They each gave fine performances, but might have been allowed to do more, particularly the lively Reagan, who certainly deserved more stage time. DeCarlo had a bawdy, larger-than-life presence that, at times, made Cervix… feel like a drag show, but without the prerequisite man in a dress.

Ron Cassavale's direction was almost nonexistent. For each song or skit, De Carlo simply stood center stage and delivered her lines, with almost no blocking, and very simplistic choreography. In some scenes, Cassavale shook things up by having DeCarlo sit center stage, rather than stand, but there was little going on visually for most of the show. In a couple of scenes there was some activity, as when DeCarlo brought a volunteer onstage for her S&M sketch (or Bondage and "domination" as DeCarlo calls it), or as when Sally Reagan did some hoedown choreography during the country-western number. Unfortunately these few moments of activity only served to highlight the lack of energy in the other scenes.

The stage was mostly bare, with a rack of clothes upstage, which was used as a screen when Decarlo changed outfits. Because of the rapid character changes, the costumes themselves were limited to simple pieces that could be thrown on over DeCarlo's drab T-shirt and tights (the T-shirt & tights ensemble got a little more stage time than it ought to). The most elaborate costume of the night was a French Maid outfit DeCarlo wore when playing a dominatrix, which was perplexing since maids are submissive, rather than dominant, as far as the S&M scene goes.

Even though DeCarlo's sketches were well-written and funny, Cervix... was dragged down by weak directing, haphazard design and occasionally lethargic performances. This was quite lamentable since the material would surely flourish in a more forceful production.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2005 Charles Battersby