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Backstage West
February 14, 2002

Reviewed by Polly Warfield

Keep your seat belts fastened for a wild ride. The wedding of Walker and Wendy makes Tony ‘n’ Tina’s look like a minuet. What the rabbi saw would make a cleric less happy-go-lucky than this one lose his yarmulke. What the audience saw was members of the wedding engaging in such prenuptial hanky-panky, such mad melee of misbehavior, it makes what Joe Orton’s butler saw a mere lapse of discretion. right away we find the bride’s sister in such flagrante delicto with the bridegroom that her gown gets caught in his zipper. From ten on things get more and more physical.

Don’t you love farce?  Well, yes, but Billy VanZandt’s & Jane Milmore’s What the Rabbi Saw pushes its limits. Think The Godfather gone out of control; think Ray Cooney and Ken Ludwig combined and revved up. So much bawdy fun is boldly directed by Robert Rothbard and delivered by this new ensemble of personable, mostly young, mostly talented, and altogether eager-to-please actors who have moved into a new venue more glossing and gleaming than we have a right to expect in a 36-seat storefont venue from a company calling itself the 68 Cent Crew. The set — a tidy Waldorf Hotel room designed and built by Danny Cistone — gleams with tender loving care; the theatre’s plush new seats and velvety stage curtain are quality and handsome.

The cast boasts four fine females with comedic flair. Jules Dosik’s Wendy, in a splendid wedding dress that gets very mussed, is a love with an expressive face who doesn’t deserve this kind of a wedding. Angela Pupello as her adulterous sister, Claudia, has a hint of the Joan Collins/Alexis bitch goddess about her. Eva Longoria’s pop singer, Lainie, is sensational in three or four gorgeous’ costume changes and deftly satirizes her super-stardom. Randi Kaplan’s Mrs. Kirschenbaum reminds us we must never underestimate a Jewish mother, especially when it comes to getting her daughter married.

Hats off to the director and this 11-member cast for crowded nonstop frantic action ion this tiny stage with no one hurt. Cistone’s Walter tangles with Jed Rheins’ Mitch; Butch Klein impresses as a stress-out gay wedding director; Victor DeRose’s Rabbi is such a jolly cherub you want to hug him. Tommy Colavito’s terrible-tempered father of the bride sort of resembles Walter Matthau and gets what he deserves for hollering at his wife loudly enough to cause hearing loss. Ronnie Marmo as Lainie’s menacing Mafia boyfriend threatens to shoot everybody — but with that cap gun he flourishes? And just as Claudia gives up hope for a man of her own, along comes Jeff Harris as that good-looking photog. In the manner of farce, everything’s going to turn out improbably all right.

You want farce, you got farce, and a bright beginning for Marmo’s 68 Cent Crew in their Space Theatre right across the street from Sacred Fools  — and maybe the beginning of a new small theatre distinct on Heliotrope. We hope.