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A CurtainUp Review
Bermuda Avenue TRiangle
By Elyse Sommer
To quote Fanny (Renée Taylor) a Jewish widow and mother from hell in the camped-up, over-the-top ethnic comedy Bermuda Triangle, "Oy!" What can a theater critic say about a show that would have gone over big in the hey day of Borscht Belt entertainment, and that might with a little soap in the mouth of its leading ladies work as a TV sitcom?
It started as a workshop in Los Angeles and ran there for a year. It apparently also made them laugh in Coconut Grove. And, if the audience at the last preview I attended at the Promenade can be used as a barometer, it might just go over big with New York audiences over sixty-- -- who have more of a penchant for theater-of-sight-and-sound-gag-buffoonery than, well,. . . theater. They laughed--big loud belly laughs. The broader the humor, the louder the laughs. Many actually wiped a tear or two from their eyes during the manipulative climax. I'll admit that I succumbed a few times myself, seduced by the impeccable timing of Renee Taylor and Nanette Fabray--(she's an Irish-Italian widow and no slouch at dishing out maternal guilt)-- and Gail Cooper-Hecht's outrageous costumes. I also found it hard to resist the comical Manny Kleinmuntz as a rabbi who's metaphorically shocked out of his bright Bermuda shorts by the libido-driven antics of the newest tenants at a Las Vegas retirement complex. Director Danny Daniela, best known as a choreographer, can also be credited for enlisting James Noone to create the apt set, (see our Mega Byte Award for Design), with its pastel upholstery and rattan, two cleverly revolving wall units to accommodate several telephone scenes between Ronnie Farer and Priscilla Shanks, and a porch that's a cheery version of his greenhouse in The Gin Game.)
To steal a line from Joseph Bologna and co-author-wife-star Taylor's much funnier 1970 movie Lovers And Other Strangers, So what's the story? Two kvetchy New York widows are dumped into a Las Vegas retirement condo. It looks "as if it were painted with Pepto-Bismol"" declares the tight-lipped Tess (Nanette Fabray), but as one of their, loving but guilt-ridden daughters, points out it boasts a view of "Julio Iglesia's mother's apartment." As it turns out their grey wigs, dowdy clothes and ace bandages are smokescreens for long dormant but waiting-for-a-prince sexual appetites. That "prince" is, of course, Bologna, a mysterious stranger who turns their "oy vehs" into multiple orgasms. Except for one terrific moment, when he slicks back his hair, and finger-presses the crease back into his wool-silk pants in anticipation of the Irish-Catholic seduction, Bologna's Johnny seems vaguely out to lunch during most of the evening's proceedings.
As the afore-mentioned movie's Oscar winning song would have it, "for all we know" there are some women of uncertain years who will admire these characters for having the chutzpah to go over the top as these characters do. And for all we know, the recognition factor of the jokes will keep audiences laughing along with Ms. Taylor's at times embarassing willingness to poke fun at her zaftig built.
Taylor and Bologna have a sizeable base of fans. Nanette Fabray also has sentimental drawing power. It's these fans' word-of-mouth that undoubtedly kept Bermuda Triangle,running in Los Angeles. And it's audience word-of-mouth that will have to bring them to the Promenade. If the producers are relying on the critics, "Oy veh!"