Thursday, August 13, 2009


Calling All Mae West Fans to Signature Theatre in Arlington

If there are any fans out there who have ever liked the dynamic Mae West, then they better get to the Tony Award®-Winning Signature Theatre located in Arlington, VA.

The play I am referring to is Dirty Blonde, conceived by Claudia Shear and James Lapine, with music by Claudia Shear, which is now showing through October 4, 2009.

The cast is minimal, with Emily Skinner as Mae West, Hugh Nees and J. Fred Shiffman, but, boy, these actors come fully loaded with a fantastic evening of entertainment.

At first, it might take the audience a while to figure out what is happening, with actors coming in and out of character at different historical times or playing a variety of characters, but fortunately the no intermission continues the momentum for the play and allows the actors to unfold on the stage.

I'm not going to go into great detail about what happens in this play because frankly I have stopped reading reviews of plays and films because often the writer gives it all away. When I go to the theatre, I want to be totally captivated by the lives of the actors on the stage and be challenged either by their actions or the plot of the story. If this is what you are looking for, then this superb play and excellent acting by all three actors will more than satisfy your craving for good theatre.

But I must go on about Emily Skinner's tour de force on stage. She captures Mae West's persona like no one else I have seen. As I said, the viewer might hesitate at first with regard to Mae West on the stage but keep in mind that Mae West is learning to become THE Mae West we all know from her films and interviews.

Certainly, both Hugh Nees, who also transforms himself on the stage, and J. Fred Shiffman balance and push and poke sort of speak so that eventually we become cognizant of what is happening before our eyes.

And oh, yes, we hear some of Mae West's pearls of wisdom:
"Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before."
"I believe that it's better to be looked over than it is to be overlooked."
among others.

But in the end, the play demonstrates Mae West's jewel philosophy:
"It's not what I do, but the way I do it. It's not what I say, but the way I say it."

Jeremy Skidmore, the director, has a hit on his hands and he owes to the whole package: script, music, acting, lighting, costumes, and design--they all work in tandem to produce one of the most enjoyable plays I have seen in a while, such that my partner and I are thinking of seeing it again.

After all, the making of the Queen by queens doesn't happen often.

Bottom line: If you ever loved Mae West or want an introduction to this jewel of American theatre, then get your body to Signature Theatre, pronto!

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