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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
And even though I'm not guilty of anything, I don't want some casual remark of mine to end up as part of a criminal investigation. — Claire
As a self-ascribed caper ("a suspenseful game of cat and mouse") Victor L. Cahn's Villainous Company is predictable, obvious, and almost nonsensical but also lots of fun. With its cast of three attractive women, it plays out like a low-budget, bottom-of-a-double-bill B movie from the 1940s. If you overlook the implausibility of each twist of the plot, there is a good time to be had watching three deceptive entrepreneurial schemers outsmart each other and even themselves. Its limited run a year ago on Theatre Row and some positive reviews, including one from Curtainup, has made it attractive to regional theaters such as the New Jersey Repertory Company where it is getting a very fine production.
Corey Tazmania and Phoenix Vaughn, photo credit: Suzanne Barabas)
The audience knows from the get-go that something fishy is going on. Claire's (Pheonix Vaughn) posh living room looks suspiciously less like a home than a high-end boutique with its (too) many shelves displaying expensive looking objects d'art (Craftily designed by Jessica Parks). A former bookkeeper, Claire is presumably now a dealer in art with international connections. Returning home from a shopping excursion to a nearby mall, she realizes she has left her purchase in the store. Soon enough, Tracey (Melissa Macleod Herion), who says she is an employee of the store arrives at the door and hands Claire the package, but also fast-talks her way into the room where it is soon revealed that she is not only an undercover detective but also a smart cookie with her own agenda.
Just as things begin to get a little dicey for Claire, her business associate Joanna (Corey Tazmania) arrives in time to make the situation even more dangerous and potentially explosive. It isn't so much the careful exposure and unraveling by Tracey of a criminal enterprise that entertains but rather the interplay and the relationships between the women that fascinate.
The excellent acting, under the snappy direction of Suzanne Barabas, makes the eighty minutes fly by. Vaughn has a juicy transition to make as Claire, who slowly evolves from the innocent if not-quite-dumb blonde into a defensive, nerve-wracked victim. Herion is terrific as the slippery-to-a-fault undercover detective who firmly believes she is outmaneuvering her target. Tazmania brings a tough edge to the guarded Joanna who is not above resorting to a little roughhouse. An element of terror is introduced as is also a little sex among partners.
So while we watch the twists with a raised eyebrow and don't necessary buy into all the business, be it art or monkey, Villainous Company
is certainly an enjoyable diversion from possibly other kinds of company.
Villainous Company by Victor L. Cahn|
Directed by Suzanne Barabas
Cast: Melissa Macleod Herion (Tracy), Corey Tazmania (Joanna), Pheonix Vaughn (Claire)
Stage Manager: Jennifer Tardibuono
Scenic Design: Jessica Parks
Lighting Design: Jill Nagle
Sound Design: Merek Royce Press
Fight Choreographer: Brad Lemons
Costumes Design: Patricia E. Doherty
Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes (no intermission)
New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ
(732) 229 - 3166
Performances: Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 3 pm & 8 pm; Sundays at 2 pm
From 05/05/16 Opened 05/07/16 Ends 06/05/16
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 05/07/16
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