By Tulis McCall
Who does not love Rita Rudner? That would be n-o-b-o-d-y. Everyone loves Rita Rudner. Or they should if they have a brain. She is a blisteringly funny standup comedian found on late night shows and in concert halls. Her presentation is understated and very smart. There is not a foul word to be heard. You must listen.
The best lines in Two’s A Crowd are delivered by Rudner, and one supposes they were written by her as well. Sad to say, the good lines are few and far between. The majority of the lines, spoken and sung, are stilted on the one hand and unimaginative on the other. In addition they are laid over a story line that is preposterous.
To wit: We are in present day Las Vegas and two people have booked the same room – well THEY didn’t, but someone messed up. In this fantasy land the hotel has no other rooms available. So management suggests that this man Tom (Robert Yacko) and this woman Wendy (Rudner) – who have never met before today – share the room using an easy foldaway bed.
The two agree.
On what planet would this happen?
Look, I know this is a classic story – two strangers are pulled together by circumstances beyond their control (It Happened One Night) – but the circumstances must be either believable, or so absurd that we go along with it (Marx Brothers anyone?). This story falls exactly in the middle, and disappears through the floor boards. The “excuses” given as to why neither will give up their hold on the room are that Robert is in town to attend a poker tournament and Wendy is there to escape her philandering husband.
Once it was made clear that this was the situation I pretty much bailed. There is only so far I can go.
The performers are all adequate – Yacko has a rich voice, and Rudner is a damn good singer, although she is in no way an actor. Kelly Holden Bashar and Brian Lohmann play a host of characters in a parade of sad wigs. No one is standout, and often times the actors appear to have been left to their own devices as far as listening and reacting to one another. There are a lot of eye rolls, as well as a complete absence of believable clinches between anyone and anyone. Martin Bergman‘s direction seems to have been the long distance variety.
The story – both incredible and predictable as luck would have it – is fed to us one step at a time without a molecule of truth appearing anywhere along the way. In addition, there are some serious wardrobe and prop errors that practically call out to those of us watching. Note to props: Dom Perignon label is green.
In spite of these major gaffs, the story points us to the possibility of love when a person has reached a Certain Age. I was watching many of the couples around me holding hands or getting a little misty. This is a theme of which there is too little representation on the stage, in movies, well EVERYWHERE. So Bravo for making it the center of this piece. In addition the songs sung by Jason Feddy have a rough Joe Cocker sound that suits us folks of a Certain Age. Lots of memories to go with that genre of music.
Rudner is a comedian on her own terms. She gives the impression of living in a world just a few centimeters away from where we live. That makes all the difference in the world. Gracie Allen comes to mind. Which is a high compliment.
I was thinking of taking one of those anger management classes. But when I phoned up to enquire about it, the woman who answered the phone was so irritating…
Rudner belongs on the stage as an entertainer. Give her a spotlight and a mic. That is her home. Playwriting and acting? Not so much.
Two’s A Crowd. By Rita Rudner and Martin Bergman, Directed by Martin Bergman
WITH Kelly Holden Bashar, Brian Lohmann, Rita Rudner and Robert Yacko
The set and lighting design team is by Tessa Bookwalter and sound design is by Jonathan Burke of Jabworks. The production stage manager is John Concannon.
New York, New York June 4, 2019—59E59 Theaters (Val Day, Artistic Director; Brian Beirne, Managing Director) is thrilled to welcome comedy icon Rita Rudner in the NYC premiere of TWO’S A CROWD, through Sunday, August 25. The performance schedule is Tuesday – Friday at 7PM; Saturday at 2 PM & 7 PM; and Sunday at 2 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East59th Street, between Park and Madison). Single tickets are $25 – $70 ($49 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call the 59E59 Box Office at 646-892-7999 or visit www.59e59.org. The running time is 2 hours with one no intermission.