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STAGE REVIEW : Feminist 'Alice' Still Funny in New Edition

May 18, 1992|SYLVIE DRAKE | TIMES THEATER CRITIC

SAN DIEGO — Aside from the unimaginative title, "A . . . My Name Is Still Alice" is still, well, funny feminist humor cannily delivered in a traditional revue format.

This extension of that earlier feminist revue, "A . . . My Name Is Alice," is again conceived and staged by Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd. Written and composed by a host of clever men and women, it's as variable as the variety of its authors. It is personably enacted by a distinctive quintet of performers: Roo Brown, Randy Graff, Alaina Reed Hall, Mary Gordon Murray and Nancy Ticotin. All but Ticotin are veterans of one edition or other of the original "A . . . My Name Is Alice."

The formula that worked for "A . . . My Name Is Alice" is still working. This tells us two things: That the new revue that opened Thursday at the Old Globe Theatre is, indeed, formulaic and that it doesn't stray far from its predecessor. Its distinction, now as then, is in its feminist perspective. As strictly traditionalist as its structure may be, the mix of running gags, songs, monologues and political barbs is for the most part smart, current and topical.

Only now and then is a generic song allowed to infiltrate the tasty material with about the same effect as a plate of unsalted vegetables at a gourmet feast. You can overlook the intrusion in the first half, where Glen Roven's song about AIDS, "My Brother and I," broadcasts its mawkish outcome at about the third line, but the second half runs out of gas halfway through.

It becomes top-heavy with much weaker numbers (Ellen Sebastian's "The Audition"), songs uniquely designed to show off a performer's strengths (Hall's vocal gymnastics in the Ursuline Kairson/Jean-Daniel Mercier song "Now") or that are merely bland and extraneous ("Amanda McBroom's "Baby"; Graff's meticulous rendering of the crushingly banal "He Comes Home Tired" by Muriel Robinson and David Friedman).

Silver and Boyd need to do more editing. The good stuff is often first-rate, but this type of revue thrives on cogency and would benefit from being shorter and tighter.

From the lilting opener ("Life's a Circus," music Doug Katsaros, lyrics David Zippel) that introduces all five women in a witty clutch of personal sketches, we move briskly to Graff's terrific "Non-Bridaled Passion," a monologue by Kate Shein in which a single woman who is not getting married makes a helluva case for registering with a department store's bridal registry.

(Why should couples who have everything they need--each other--also get the pitcher in the shape of an eggplant?)

This is followed by the first of a series of Dan Berkowitz skits on a miraculous makeup called Cover Up that makes it possible for Madonna, Queen Elizabeth II and the Pope to circulate in the world undetected. It's the show's lively running gag, nicely performed by the endlessly versatile Brown.

Other highlights: the ensemble in Berkowitz's biting sketch about the David Souter Home for Unwed Mothers, in which abortion, the "gag" rule and Clarence Thomas come in for some ribbing; Douglas Bernstein and Denis Markell's "Painted Ladies," an uncommon museum tour, and Mark St. Germain and Randy Courts' pointed song about the de facto preferential treatment given to boys over girls, "Why Doesn't She Call on Me?"

Strictly for fun (which is OK too): Ticotin in "Juanita Craiga," Lisa Loomer's expansive homage to expensive diet plans; Courts and St. Germain's spoof of country and Western stars in "The Sorghum Sisters," and Christine Lavin and John Gorka's ironic "Sensitive New Age Man," in many respects the show's most incisive number, sharply delivered by Ticotin.

Sound designers Jeff Ladman and Tony Tait could improve the quality of the body-miking (it sounded a trifle muffled Thursday), but the lively band, Cliff Faulkner's all-purpose set in soft grays, Liza Gennaro's simple but stylish choreography, David F. Segal's lights and a sober but smart array of costumes by David C. Woolard lend the production the right support.

It's the material that needs attention. For starters, the creators of the show could eliminate some of the expendable items mentioned above and have a stronger show for it. "A . . . My Name Is Still Alice" has pertinent things to say and shouldn't dilute them with expendable, mundane matters.

"Alice" is "Still Alice" and less is still more.

Roo Brown, Randy Graff, Alaina Reed Hall, Mary Gordon Murray, Nancy Ticotin: Ensemble

World premiere of the musical revue conceived and directed by Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd. Sets Cliff Faulkner. Lights David F. Segal. Costumes David C. Woolard. Sound Jeff Ladman, Tony Tait. Material by Dan Berkowitz, Douglas Bernstein, Randy Courts, David Friedman, John Gorka, Carol Hall, Georgia Bogardus Holof, Ursuline Kairson, Doug Katsaros, Christine Lavin, Lisa Loomer, Denis Markell, Amanda McBroom, Jean-Daniel Mercier, David Mette, Mary Bracken Phillips, Jimmy Roberts, Muriel Robinson, Glen Roven, Mark Saltzman, Stephen Schwartz, Ellen Sebastian, Kate Shein, June Siegel, Mark St. Germain, Steve Tesich, David Zippel. Musical director Henry Aronson. Choreographer Liza Gennaro. Orchestrator Robby Merkin. Musicians Henry Aronson, Gary Scott, Charles Chadwick, Will Parsons. Production stage manager Douglas Pagliotti. Assistant stage manager Melissa Joy Morris.

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