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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
A Saint She Ain't
A Saint She Ain't is London-based book and lyric writer Dick Vosburgh's homage to the movies of the long gone golden era. The book is linked just enough to a Moliere rarity called le Cocu Imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid) to give it the cache of a French connection. Dennis King's pleasant if not exactly memorably hummable music is designed for a two-piano orchestra. Berkshire Theatre Festival is giving the show, which opened in North London in 1999 and then transferred to the West End, its first airing in Vosburgh's native land.
Basically A Saint She Ain't is a double-bareled parody. First it recreates exactly the kind of gossamer-light vehicle now found in the golden oldie section of video stores. Then it casts it with characters who have borrowed liberally from the likes of the Andrew Sisters, Jimmy Durante, W. C. Fields, Mae West, Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly. The W. C. Fields look-and-persona clone is now a boozey Snaveley T. Bogle (P.J. Benjamin), married to Faye (Alison Briner) a curvaceous, sex-bomb with a penchant for sexual double entendres, whose name rhymes with that of you know who. To parody Jimmy Durante, there's a character named Ray Bagalucci (Joel Blum) whose beautiful daughter Anna's (Christina Marie Norrup) romance with a Gene Kelley-like sailor named Danny O'Reilly (Jason Gillman) provides a star-crossed lover angle to the otherwise plotless sillyness.
If you don't recognize Abbott and Costello in the thin and fat sailors (Roland Rusinek as the rotund Willoughby and Jay Russell as Skip) on leave in Hollywood (where else?) with Danny, you can't miss the connection during their clever if somewhat overlong variation of their famous "Who's On First?" routine. (To give just a brief example: When Willowby asks for a hamburger Skip tells him to order an L and his "Why L?" prompts a "Why the L not?").
It's a fun concept abetted by Troy Hourie's pastel-colored Hollywood set and David Murin's nifty costumes that include snoods for the Andrew sisters and several glitzy hour-glass figure huggers for Faye. The eight actors are spot-on in capturing the shtick of the performers they are parodying. P. J. Benjamin stands out as Bogle-à-la-Fields, persona as does Joel Blum, the Jimmy Durante father of the Rita Hayworth-Kathryn Grayson-and every other singing and dancing star of the silver screen. Mae West has, of course, been imitated to a fare-thee-well so that any impersonation is likely to look and sound like a parody of a parody. Vosburgh and King have given Faye "The Banana For My Pie", the show's most likely to be remembered song, if only for its non-stop, sexual doublespeak designed to outrage the Hays Office (Hollywood's erstwhile office in charge of keeping movies smut free).
Director Eric Hill taps into the escapist mood by at one point sending lights flashing all across the theater and at another launching a shower of confetti. But not everything works like the perennial well-oiled machine. The Bogles' cartoony little house which serves for Mae-Faye's slithery " come up and see me " shenanigans is too far front so that you are constantly aware of the actors moving on and off-stage. The pacing is not as uniformly fast as it should be and the comic business -- even the clever take off on the famous "Who's On First?" -- tends to go on beyond funny. To sum up, great art or music this ain't. However, it fills the bill as light, summer stock entertainment and should do well both in Stockbridge and when it moves on to the Westport Country Playhouse.
6,500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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