Thursday, April 07, 2011

An Evening With Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball flounders at 14th Street Theatre

AN EVENING WITH LUCILLE BALL: THANK YOU FOR ASKING, which is now on stage at the 14th Street Theatre, is billed as “a touching, funny and uplifting one-woman play.” Yes, is it a one-woman show. Unfortunately, it not touching, funny or uplifting.

I am confounded as to how Suzanne LaRusch (who is the one-woman in the show) and Lucie Arnaz (Lucille Ball’s daughter), could take the life and material of one of the funniest women in television history, and make it into such a boring and contrived production.

I LOVE LUCY is an iconic piece of U.S. cultural folklore. Lucille Ball is an iconic personage of U.S. cultural folklore. If LaRusch and Arnaz wanted to give us the Lucy we know and love, inserting snippets from the famous wine stomping and candy stuffing scenes and television interviews of the great woman, within the historical life information, might have made for a happy evening of nostalgia. Instead, the authors developed a contrived question-and-answer interview scheme, in which recorded voices of so-called audience members asked questions that most often got flat, uninteresting bits of information in response from LaRusch (whoops, Lucy).

Yes, LaRusch batted her eyes and pursed her Lucy lips, but there was little connection to the audience. Her attempts to sing Boy With a Bugle from the Ball’s negatively reviewed film, MAME, and Hey Look Me Over, from her short-lived Broadway production of WILDCAT, only stressed the performer’s poor singing abilities. (Was this her voice or was she trying to mock the vocally challenged Ball?)

Yes, there were “never-before-heard personal recollections about her life,” but that alone does not a fascinating or entertaining piece of theatre make.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: AN EVENING WITH LUCILLE BALL was a poorly conceived, contrived and tedious evening of theatre. ‘Nuff said.