The MET Theatre | 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.
Through Aug. 18 | domatheatre.com
Ostensibly about an Italian filmmaker at a crossroads in his career and personal life, the Tony-winning musical Nine is really about the many women surrounding the Fellini-esque auteur. This is good news for DOMA Theater Company, whose ambitious revival— directed by Marco Gomez—boasts a number of knockout female performances delivering some gems from Maury Yeston’s sturdy score.
The tricky thing about Nine has always been that very little happens in Arthur Kopit’s book. At the top we meet the various women in the life of Guido Contini (David Michael Trevino), the director suffering from writer’s block on his new film while his wife of 20 years, Luisa (Melissa Anjose), is threatening divorce, his sexy mistress Carla (Lovlee Carroll) is threatening suicide and his longtime leading lady, Claudia Nardi (Toni Smith), is threatening to walk out on the picture. In addition, he faces the demands of his fierce French producer, Liliane LaFleur (Emilia Sotelo), and the haunting memories of his mother (Michelle Holmes). By the end of the show, Guido has solved very little, along the way exhibiting a profound narcissism and immaturity.
It falls on the shoulders of the actor playing Guido to overcome this built-in challenge by charming and seducing the audience as well as every one of the women onstage. We have to believe so many of them would nearly ruin their lives for this man. Trevino works very hard, but his attempts at seduction are sometimes awkward, and he is miscast as an irresistible Casanova. Less is more when it comes to sexiness, and his performance would benefit from greater stillness.
With that said, the highlights of Yeston’s score belong to the ladies—and they don’t disappoint—especially with the splendid support of musical director Chris Raymond’s flawless band. Carroll’s “A Call from the Vatican” is a knockout as she slinks and shimmies in an impossibly short, hot-pink dress (one of Irvin Jimenez’s many gorgeous costumes), while Smith gets the show’s best song, “Unusual Way,” and breaks our heart with it. Anjose’s gorgeous voice delivers the night’s high point with Luisa’s impassioned “Be on Your Own.”
Gomez uses Amanda Lawson’s two-tiered set effectively, especially for the show’s final moments, even if the setting looks more like a dungeon than a spa. The use of two songs from the 2009 film has mixed results. “Cinema Italiano” makes a splashy Act Two opener, but including “Guarda La Luna” instead of the original show’s “Getting Tall” weakens the lovely connection with young Guido at the end.
Still, while this production of Nine might not be a 10, it is a wonderful opportunity to hear a charming score —part Sondheim, part Jacques Brel—delivered by a game cast in a well-appointed but intimate setting.
The Judy Show: My Life as a Sitcom
Geffen Playhouse | 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood
Through Aug. 4 | geffenplayhouse.com
Popular comedienne Judy Gold returns to the stage in her one-woman show appropriately titled The Judy Show. Having grown up in the golden age of sitcoms, Judy was entranced by the portrayals of families that graced the screen and became a communal experience for audiences across the country. This was a time without DVRs, so watching these programs was an event. And while Judy learned a lot about life from these shows, what she didn’t see was a sitcom that resembled her life.
As a really tall Jewish girl with an overbearing mother and a lifetime of not fitting in, The Partridge Family just wasn’t reflective of her world. So as her stand-up career flourished and her personal life began to take shape with a family of her own, she became more and more interested in pitching her own life as a sitcom. What it basically came down to was a show about the family of a lesbian Jewish mother of two who also happened to be a comedienne. But every time she pitched the idea, it was either not understood or they wondered if it could be animated.
Judy Gold uses her obsession with sitcoms of the ‘70s and ‘80s to tell an autobiographical story of a girl trying to find her way through an unsympathetic industry and overly concerned parents. While Ms. Gold’s background is firmly entrenched in stand-up, she does a remarkable job of mixing the funny with the heartfelt, touching on subjects such as her father’s phone call to her when he was attempting to offer his acknowledgement and acceptance of her homosexuality. While she pokes a lot of fun at her stereotypically Jewish mother, there is an intense love for her that comes through in spades. But the nicest thing about the evening is that Gold is playing to a mostly older, mostly straight, upper-class white audience.
We might live in a city that is more accepting than most, but what she does here is openly speak about her lifestyle with a comfort and grace that puts her audience at ease. She connects with them through her Jewish heritage and tales of parental disapproval. She uses pop culture references to show the audience she is one of them too. And then she slowly opens up about her relationships and her children.
For an audience member who might not be accustomed to hearing about how normal the gay lifestyle can be, Gold’s humor and heart do wonders here. She makes her story everyone’s story, because it’s relatable and funny. Whether you grew up with The Brady Bunch on your black-and-white TV or not, there’s something in Gold’s story that will be familiar—the desire to be accepted and happy.
—Kevin P. Taft