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The Theatreguide.London Review

Salsa Saved The Girls
Old Red Lion Theatre      Autumn 2007

Rose Martula's play attempts to combine screwball comedy and psychological drama, two genres that sit uncomfortably together at best, and that would need a stronger production than this one to blend successfully.

What you get here is more a sense of what-just-barely-might-have-been in the hands of a stronger playwright, director and cast than a satisfying experience in itself.

In an ethnic New York suburban home (Think The Sopranos without the Mafia), teen daughters await the weekly visit of their divorced father, who has picked just the wrong night because Mom has a hot date.

The two men's inevitable sniping at each other is compounded by the unexpected arrival of a third suitor, a comically nerdy guy who has worshipped Mom from afar and now declares his love.

That all the characters are cartoons - mother is an airhead, the first two men are variants on swaggering macho, one daughter is assertively sulky and the other irrepressibly bubbly - is no problem as long as the play operates on the level of screwball comedy, though director Rachel Parish is unable to give it the pacing and rhythm farce demands.

But midway through the second act things suddenly try to get Deep And Serious, each character exposing or facing some Dark Inner Fear. It doesn't work, in part because they don't actually do that.

Unless the actors accidentally jumped a page of text at the performance I saw, everyone repeatedly reacts as if Something Significant has just been said when it hasn't.

And so things just peter out, having achieved neither the play's comic nor its serious ambitions.

Given characters that are at best one-and-a-half-dimensional - that is, they have a single note, with just the vaguest hint that another writer or director might have found more in them - only Simon Cole as the father and Matthew Hendrickson as the wally are able to do much more than avoid bumping into the furniture.

Gerald Berkowitz


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Review of Salsa Saved The Girls - Old Red Lion  Theatre 2007

 

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