“Private Dancer” is the perfect example of a production which has so much potential to be something intense (capable of pulling tears from watching eyes). Instead it crashes and burns leaving some asleep and others trying to contain their laughter.
Issues arise in the first few minutes when Sage Snakechalmer who plays famed actress/dancer Rita Hayworth arrives on stage and speaks on the phone for what feels like a life time. This disconnects the audience immediately making the scene of Hayworth’s physical abuse seem forced and out of place. There is a lack of action in the script, meaning there is a whole lot of nothing happening. For much of the duration of the show it feels like the audience is being talked at rather than allowed to engage in a story which is shown but not told. There are many scenes which could be omitted or shortened. The dreaded “is this over?” thought comes to mind—too often. The order in which the scenes are arranged are unfulfilling—the creation of pathos is a struggle—arguably it never truly occurs but confusion ensues.
There is a saying that there are no great writers only great rewrites. Snakechalmer wrote the script in 2013 (this year) and jumped into production right away. Given the finished written product it is safe to say that Snakechalmer could have used a few more rewrites. The script truthfully is not at its highest level.
That said there are beautiful moments when it comes to the video aspect of the play. Many of the scenes directed by Academy Award nominee Bob Degas are shot and edited exquisitely. It’s quite the ambitious move to mash both live theater and cinematic but certain elements like the acting fall short when it takes place on the stage. Strange artistic choices in directions as usual are left to perspective in the way they are received—for this reviewer most of the choices seem unauthentic. They give the impression of trying too hard to be deep and profound.
Murphy Guyer (First Husband) and Lynne Winstersteller (Mother) are part of the bright side of the show. Though their time is short their acting is exceptional—out shinning the star in some instances. Also the music by Brian Ralston is composed and executed wonderfully. The wardrobe styled by Laurie Schechter is also well done. Choreography by Francessca Haper is not a disappointment but the follow through by Snakechalmer is. She starts off well and lighting works in her favor but she appears to be counting in her head.
To put it simply many of the building blocks of the show would work better with a different script and maybe a different actress who is lighter on her feet.
It is understandable and commendable that the creators looked to bring awareness to Alzheimer’s disease but that is no excuse or pass in the theater world. Unfortunately, I’ve seen
better shows for free, paying $35 for one ticket is a bit much and almost insulting. I wouldn’t recommend one go watch but one can donate to the Alzheimer’s Association (New York City Chapter).
Private Dancer- Written and performed by Sage Snakechalmer. Directed by Bob Degas.
With: Murphy Guyer (First Husband), Lynne Winterstellar (Mother)
Benavides (Production Designer), Joshua Rose (Lighting Designer)
Francesca Harper (Choreographer), Brian Ralston (Composer and Musical Score), Abigail , Laurie Schechter ( Style Director), Jon Can Coskunses (Costume Designer Dance of the Seven Veils), Lisa K. Fowle (Sound Designer) Hollywood Studio Symphony (Original Score), Chris Burton Jacome (Flamenco Guitar Arrangements), Yuri Lowenthal (Newsreel Voiceover Actor)
Sam P. Israel, Locus Media (Executive Producer), Decent Productions (Production Company), Alexandra Angelique Leeper (Producer), Production Assistant), 15-Pass William Kelly (Production Assistant) Private Dancer plays through December 21 at The Lion Theatre on Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street. Performances are Wed, Thurs, Fri and Sat at 8pm; Sun at 3pm. For tickets, which are $35, call Telecharge at 212/239-6200, or visit www.telecharge.com or www.privatedancertheplay.com