Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cactus Flower

Until this production, Abe Burrows' Cactus Flower had not had a major New York revival. That was a good thing. It is hard to understand why anyone would want to revive this flat, unbelievable, ugly comedy. The plot is based on lies: A dentist claims to be married so that his girlfriend Toni won't expect too much of him. When he needs to present his imaginary wife, he asks his long-suffering nurse at the dentist office to make believe they are married, oblivious of course to the fact that she loves him. The dentist is a liar and a creep, and it is highly unlikely that two women would care so much for him--or else deeply depressing. The show begins with Toni almost dead from a suicide attempt, which is played for laughs. Was there ever a time that suicide was actually funny? If so, I'm glad it's over.

The level of humor in Cactus Flower is exemplified by this exchange (from memory):
Toni: What's your name.
Next-door neighbor: Igor Sullivan
Toni: Igor Sullivan. That's wild.
Igor: I made it up.
Toni: How come you chose Igor?
Igor: That's my real name. I made up Sullivan.
The acting and directing don't help much. Maxwell Caulfield gives Daffy Duck a run for his money in the "cartoon performance" category, and his main facial expression is "I lost my glasses." Jeremy Bobb as Igor needs to be charming and attractive, but cannot rise above the writing or his costumes and haircut to achieve either. Lois Robbins as the nurse gives an actual performance, and Jenni Barber is likable as Toni. The supporting cast overacts in an overwrought frenzy that suggests that Michael Bush should not be directing comedies.

(Press ticket, eighth row center).

No comments: