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A CurtainUp Review


Off-Broadway is enjoying a wave of hits that originated in smaller, less commercial Off-Off-Broadway houses (which for theater goers translates as cheaper tickets). All but "Tell-Tale" have been reviewed here , (See Links to Shows Mentioned at end of review), four raves and one I supposed you'd class as a yes-and-no. Except for the two that just moved, all including my yes-and-no, have turned into genuine Off-Broadway hits.

That brings me to Tell-Tale which just transferred to the Cherry Lane theater floating on a bubble of wild enthusiasm, some from critics, but mostly from the lines at the box office of P.S. 122 the hottest of hot East Village venues for performance art. I can't comment on the revisions this Drag Noir underwent on the way from First Avenue to Commerce Street. What I can tell you is this:

The two sexlessly hilarious divas --Sherry Vine and Jackie Beat -- arrived at the Cherry Lane in good form. The fiendishly clever set (Marc Happel) and astounding special effects (Basil Twist) work hard to keep the gruel-thin spoof (by Erik Jackson ) on Edgar Alan Poe's "The Telltale Heart" from being as much of a drag as a drag show triumph. Oh, and while we're praising the accouterments, the lighting and costumes ( Kevin Adams) also add much to the evening's pleasures.

The plot is less a story than a nugget of an idea to let the performers camp their way through two hours that have more zig-zags than the flash of lightening that puts you at the edge of your seat as the show begins Its cast includes Lenore Usher (Vine) a medical illustrator whose underground best seller has made her rich but miserable and agoraphobic; her blimp-sized caretaker the mis-intentioned Cora Tripetta (Beat); a sexy delivery man who packs a cleaver into his pizza delivery bag and also metamorphoses into Lenore's beloved but unloving husband Buddy and a detective (all played by Mario Diaz).

That's the human cast: Giving Vine and Beat stiff competition as stars of the increasingly manic proceedings is Poe's famous raven, here incarnated as a puppet and assorted body parts (also puppets) popping out of the basement and shelves cleverly incorporated into the set, and at one point climbing up the hospital white pegboard walls.

The show lives on its best moments: The manic slasher scene when Lenore turns the tables, or rather the cleaver, on Juan the pizza man; a tango number smartly choreographed by Jane Comfort; Lenore metamorphosing into a Sondheim chanteuse. Given the many slow and, if you'll excuse the word play inspired by the raven-ous Lenore , dragging minutes interspersed in between the laughs, I'll leave it to readers to decide whether the pleasures of these parts are worth paying the price to see the too-long-for-what-it is whole.

If you live in the neighborhood, you might try to see it at its old East Village price by taking advantage of the Cherry Lane's October "Drag Race" discounts (ten pairs of tickets will be made available between noon and 2: p.m.).

Links to Shows Mentioned
As Bees In Honey Drown. . .Gross Indecency. . .How I Learned to Drive. . .The Last Session. . .Mere Mortals

By Erik Jackson, with inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe's "Tell Tale Heart", and from the true story of Dorian Corey (of filmdom's drag documentary, Paris Is Burning Directed by Joshua Rosenzweig
With Sherry Vine (a.k.a Keith Levy) as Lenore Usher, Jackie Beat as Cora Tripetta and Mario Diaz as three different men
Cherry Lane, 38 Commerce St. (Off 7th Av, below Bleeker St.) (239-6200)
10/08 (10/15 opening) from a previous15-week run at P.S. 122
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer 10/20
Closed 12/07/97

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