Mar 21, 2013

[Theater] No Way to Treat a Lady (Repertory Philippines)

Given Tobie and I had booked ourselves season tickets for the 2013 regular season line-up of Repertory Philippines, it has been a little tricky juggling our weekend schedule sufficiently to ensure we actually watch the shows that we had paid for in advance. But theater is theater is theater and I'm glad that Tobie is willing to work with this particular hobby of mine.

Admittedly I knew little to nothing about this show before going to the theater - but I do have an interest in comedies and an appreciation for the older film noir style of movies. No Way to Treat a Lady tried to promise to deliver on that and I was definitely curious to see how this would turn out.

Plus typically the Repertory Philippines regular season tends to consist of straight plays and not musicals. So I was pretty surprised to find out that this was in fact a musical - which sort of added some value to our already discounted tickets. Yay life.

Synopsis: No Way to Treat a Lady is an adaptation of a 1968 movie directed by Jack Smight that had in turn been based on a novel by William Goldman. The musical had been adapted by  Douglas J. Cohen and was eventually revived Off-Broadway. The Repertory Philippines staging of the play ran from March 1-24 at the Greenbelt OnStage theater in Makati City.

The musical tries to parallel the lives of two men. One is Detective Morris Brummel (Joel Trinidad), your average cop trying to make a name for himself. The other is out of work actor Christopher "Kit" Gill (Director Audie Gemora), who feels pressured to make a name for himself given the success of his entertainer mother, Alexandra Gill (Pinky Marquez). For one reason or another, he decides to commit a crime in order to make the news and strangles an old woman who bears some resemblance to his mother. He leaves a kiss mark in red lipstick on the body as a sort of signature, but this crime fails to make the front page.

Detective Brummel gets assigned to the case and in time Gill decides to call the Detective and tempt him with clues of what is fast becoming a string of serial murders. Between trying to solve the case, dealing with the stereotypical dominating nature of his Jewish mother, Flora (Shiela Francisco) and his new interest in Sarah (Carla Guevarra-Laforteza), Brummel certainly has his hands full. And it doesn't help that Kit is using his talents as an actor to constantly garb himself in different disguises to evade capture.

The play promised a film noir feel, which was sort of the same promise when Repertory staged The 39 Steps. However other than the time period of the story and the fact that Brummel was wearing various trench coats throughout the play, I didn't exactly get that feel from the play. But it was pretty funny and they had some great talent assembled for this show in terms of both the acting and the singing.

Joel Trinidad was a lot of fun as Detective Brummel - he has developed a bit of a flair for physical comedy and this marries well with his skill with voices and of course his singing ability. And while I didn't necessarily get a consistently Jewish vibe from him, he was entertaining nonetheless. Shiela Francisco too a little longer to warm up into her role as Brummel's mother, but once she had it she was adorable. And it got even better when Carla Guevarra-Laforteza joined the fray - I think she played off Shiela better than she did with Joel.

Audie Gemora wasn't half bad as our psychotic actor, although he ended up portraying one of the gayest priests that I've seen in a while. And Pinky Marquez clearly had a lot of fun portraying all the different victims of his murders, which is a significant part of the play. And yes, I'm sure we ALL loved her as Carmela the most.

While the set design was initially impressive - a multi-layer construct that reminded me of what had been done by Atlantis Productions for NineAnd the production seemed to suffer the same problems as that show in terms of figuring out its lighting, although clearly there were moments that they clearly had the lights to illuminate things (like the various newspaper clippings) but for some reason did not. And that may be more of a directorial issue.

The production had some great moments that could have been enhanced more had the pacing been better. There seemed to be a dearth of proper gaps or transitions between the various scenes apart from the odd musical interlude as the crew brought in the new furniture pieces for the next scene. The play didn't flow precisely right and thus some of the plot developments did not immediately make sense. They could have handled things a lot better, I feel and proper pacing and lighting might have captured the noir feeling a lot better.

In the end the play was funny, but could have been funnier it. It was entertaining but could have done more. There was just so much more potential to be utilized to full effect but we didn't quite see that happen. And I concede that it's rather difficult for anyone to direct a play that you are also starring in. So I feel for Gemora in terms of the challenges he had to deal with.

No Way to Treat a Lady may not be one of the best musicals we've seen in local theaters, but it's still a decent one worth spending an afternoon on. It still rates a good 3 crazy death scenes out of a possible 5.
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