“I don’t want to know that you carry something in your bag for taint rippage!” Talk about your non sequiturs, and welcome to the world of What Women Talk About, a unscripted comedy that might not have a point, but certainly makes “the dish” (i.e. gossip, for the un-hip) look (and sound) really good.
Each week, the cast (four women, each a disparate “type”) make the minimalist stage (black cubes for settees) whatever they need, and then wax (sans poetry) about the men in their lives, much as you might expect four regular Jills to do. Think Sex in the City, but brusquer, since these women lack the crucial, terse pacing of a well-revised script. Think Curb Your Enthusiasm, but with more heart, less sarcasm.
The difficulty of improv, especially when you’re trying to impart an overarching story, is that it requires you to be more intellectual and witty than emotional. Saying something clever (here a mixture of recycled idioms, hilarious non sequiturs, and honest observations) is immediate; real feelings can’t be as easily forced. That’s why it was quite surprising to see Jean (played by the talented Lynne Rosenberg) break down in tears over what we might superficially consider a small thing, but which we understand to honestly be the heart of the matter. Sure, there are bound to be problematic patches and stuttered stalls over an hour of unscripted amusement, but it only takes a few of those golden moments to justify the whole show.
In this “episode” (all of which are recorded and podcast), Jean’s dating a rich guy with a zucchini-sized dick, and "the Gang" is meeting him for the first time at a rich social gathering: some sort of tomato sauce-making contest (“That’s what rich people do”). Okay, the plot’s not important: it’s how they use it—as a diving board. Rather than floating around in the kiddy pool of mundane issues, they exaggerate the small things and turn them into big things, all while, for the most part, being quite natural (if not a little overeager to get in a good joke).
The one flaw is that there’s a lack of balance in the presentation: whoever’s hot one night is going to steal the show, and others, relegated to supporting roles, come off as unfunny and stiff. I’m sure that Lauren Seikaly (Bonnie, who married into wealth and is now pregnant) can be quite funny: tonight, she was background noise. Likewise, some of the scenes they come up are distracting from a more interesting plot and proves that women don’t always have something to talk about. Small talk between Sophie and Sara (Katharine Heller and Brenna Palughi respectively, both extremely talented character actors) may give them work, but it broke up the narrative flow of the other two, as they acted a separate scene across the stage.
Women might not really talk about things this way, but if we had to sit and watch them chat, it’d be nice if they sounded like this.
Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street)
Tickets: $18.00 (212-352-3101)
Performances: Tuesdays @ 8:00
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.