Monday, August 18, 2014

FringeNYC benefits: "I'll Say She Is"

Four members of the cast of Noah Diamond's I'll Say She Is, left to right:
Seth Shelden (Harpo), Robert Pinnock (Chico),
Melody Jane (Beauty) and Diamond (Groucho)

Written by Will B. Johnstone
Adapted by Noah Diamond
Music by Tom Johnstone (additional music by Alexander Johnstone)
Directed by Trav S.D.

At times, I'll Say She Is--Noah Diamond's adaptation of Will B. Johnstone's book and lyrics for the Marx Brothers' first and forgotten Broadway show--really does seem like something shut away from the world for 90 years. Early on, the cute jokes in this musical comedy revue--starring Diamond as Groucho and directed by Trav S.D.--can land flat and sound musty, even if you're a card-carrying Marxist. Maybe especially if you are. But hang on.

I'll say it: The ambitious I'll Say She Is becomes a sure contender for Fringe Hit of 2014.

It opens with a chorus line of Kewpie Dolls in spangles and feathers and some quick-rhyming patter between the young lover-to-be character played by Zeppo Marx (played, in turn, by Aristotle Stamat) and a Broadway talent agent (Bob Homeyer). Groucho and Chico (Robert Pinnock) soon stumble into the scene. But it is the arrival of Harpo (wonderful Seth Shelden) with his smooth, childish face, wayward eyes, red curls and boisterous physicality, that suddenly injects exuberance into things. Now the "Four Horsemen of the Apoplexy," as Groucho calls himself and his kin, are complete, ready to trade barbs and flirtation with a thrill-seeking socialite (Melody Jane) and her well-meaning, Margaret Dumont-like aunt (Kathy Biehl). Up ahead? A world of trouble.

I'll Say She Is works best when when it leaves behind its one-off zinger-wannabes and busts out bizarre, 360° farce like the suspicious-Napoleon/faithless Josephine skit led with great verve by Diamond and Jane. Or the opium den scene that eventually draws everyone into a courtroom drama where the puns flow free. These are sparkling moments with the cast at its best.

Today's show was sold out, drawing an older crowd that seemed much more Broadway-oriented than Fringe-y. The Sheen Center's Loretto Auditorium is not big, and seating is by general admission. So, if you want a shot at a good seat--or any seat at all--hit that Fringe Web site now and don't dawdle.

Remaining shows:

Wednesday, August 20, 8:45pm
Friday, August 22, 9:30pm


Loretto Auditorium at the Sheen Center
18 Bleecker Street (at Elizabeth Street), Manhattan

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