Big day of theater that started @ just after 2 PM when I flew into the lobby at Signature Theater moments late after a horrible commute to the theater--a trip that normally takes 25 minutes took 65. I was so worried about missing the opening of "Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing" by James Lapine. For the record, I was the last person seated before the show commenced, and they rushed me in so fast that I didn't get a program before the show. And what a SHOW!
Honestly, I have never laughed so often or so robustly at anything I've seen on stage before. It is a tribute to Mr. Lapine's excellent writing--but we've all seen good writing go south in the wrong hands. And that was the most--bestest--of all surprises: Debra Monk! I can't even find the words to express how fabulous her performance was. She never missed the mark, not one time. Every line, every emotion, every gesture was as authentic as it could be to the point where you just forgot that you were watching an actress portray a character; no, you were watch Mrs. Miller. And given the subject matter, it would be so easy to slide her into a caricature, to create a loveable fool. Instead we get someone who is authentic to the core, sincere, a good sport, intelligent and self-aware, if not fully aware of every situation. You get the full personhood of Mrs. Miller in this amazing performance.
After seeing nearly 30 shows since September, I am also seeing many of the same faces in various roles. Not so here. The entire cast was new to me, and save one member all had Broadway experience on their resumés. In fact, Mr. Miller was adeptly played by Boyd Gaines who comes with 4 Tony Awards in his satchel. But the real standout performance was by Will LeBow who played 7 different characters from a pot obsessed record producer to a Jewish neurologist to Ed Sullivan with Chameleon-like precision. He first appears as the stoner producer and then next as the Jewish Doctor--it never even occurred to me that they were same person...I was 4 of his characters in before I realized that he was all of these, and then 3 more besides. It was as if an amazing actors like Denis O'Hare or Nancy Ticotin from the Law & Order Franchise reappearing in a totally new skin to rave reviews, yet again.
The costumes were fun, from early sixties era tele-evangelist suits to sideburns and bell-bottoms. The set was adequate, not the best I've seen, but it worked without detracting from the actor's performances. And neither of these factors mattered against the outstanding script and acting. It's around for a couple more weeks--if you can, you should go!
|Mrs. Elva Miller (Debra Monk) recording her first album|
|Her back-up singers close at hand: L-R Kimberly Marable, Jacob ben Widmar, and Kaitlyn Davidson|
|"These Boots Are Made For Walking"|
|Recording the final album|
|The photoshoot for the cover of the final album with the infamous "green" brownies|