Beverly Bonner's one-woman-with-friends act aspires to a laff-fest, but, despite a friendly audience, rarely rose to that level.
They say that the secret of acting is reacting, or listening. Even with a one-person show, the performer has to appear to be listening to some inner voice - or to an imaginary voice on the other end of a telephone line, as in one sketch here. That hard listening suggests an inner reality, and the suggested inner reality is the basis of creating a character, as well as the basis of comic timing. Without it, the performer is left babbling and cruelly alone.
Ms. Bonner started with a monolog, mainly aimed at her weight and impoverished social life. Much of the material sounded like Joan Rivers, like an out-of-character joke about having small breasts. She then performed a number of sketches as different characters, from a gossipy hausfrau to a drunken TV-cooking-show host, an unruly baby, and a senile movie star à la Norma Desmond. (The baby sketch was blocked mostly at floor level, which is realistic for a crawling infant but tough on a nightclub audience that can't see over the people in front. A high chair, baby-carriage, or large alphabet-block prop would have helped.) The sketches contained some amusing bits but tended to lack focus and punchlines and showed a limited stock of comic devices, such as grimaces. She also tended to deliver her material over the heads of the audience to the back corners of the room, as though to avoid making contact. (Straight person Carol Serrano performed a couple of bit parts competently.)
In between the sketches, and to allow for lengthy costume changes, Bianca Lee performed a number of songs that had little in common with the rest of the evening. Ms. Lee had a strong voice and could deliver a song but seemed out of her element here, unable to decide whether she was a chantoosie or a floozy, in a tight black gown cut up to here - no, there. She had trouble negotiating her entrances and exits gracefully and several times pulled back the backstage curtains to look out at the audience between numbers. Her makeup was more appropriate for high fashion than the stage, especially under colored light. She was amped to a level almost painful in the confined space.
In between the in-betweens, things didn't go smoothly, and there were long pauses for scene changes and more costume changes. Spotlights came on with no talent to walk into them. (Fortunately, in a nightclub, there are other distractions, like getting another drink from the waitress. But every time the show dies, the performer has to try to revive it again.) The costumes tended to be tacky, but not so as to be out of keeping with the raunchy material.
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Copyright 1999 John Chatterton