Saturday, February 11, 2012

Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, & Marriage

Miss Abigail’s feeble attempt to give advice now on stage at 14th Street Theatre

The 14th Street Theatre, nestled between such big venue spots as the Hanna Theatre and the major venues on Euclid Avenue, has a unique place in Cleveland theatrical presentations. It’s where the “little” acts go to play. We’ve had a nun teaching us the catechism, a cross-dresser talking us into buying Tupperware, and now an “expert” spewing out facts from books about dating, mating and marriage while being stalked by her on-stage Hispanic assistant.

The scripted/adlibbed presentation is dependent upon a dynamic and quirky presence as Miss Abigail, and a fun and sexy male assistant named Paco. Laurie Birmingham, who plays Abby, appears to be a nice woman, but isn’t a forceful presence. She doesn’t have the adlibbing ability to compensate for the poorly written script. Gabriel Gutierrez is quite charming, but lacks naturalness and the stud factor. Their interactions lack meaningful spontaneity. It’s almost like they are reading from prompt cards, and not doing that well.

Based on the ideas of real-life advice columnist and blogger, Abigail Grotke, the concept is to get the audience to enjoy themselves and share their views, participate from their seats and on stage, and hear many theories about dating, mating and marriage. They were also asked to fill out cards which were to be used to flesh out the script. Only a couple were used, and those seemed like planted questions.

Having an audience that is sloshed, willing to be played with, and can be excited by mildly sexual innuendoes, helps. Unfortunately the small opening night crowd, many of whom were woman out for a night on the town, weren’t quite drunk and raucous enough to help much.

There were “prizes” for participation including a stick of gum and cards with “Miss Abigail’s 10 Commandments for Couples,” “Miss Abigail’s ask the looking glass!,” and The Miss Abigail Dldow.” These are inscribed with such sage wisdom as: “Men, always greet her with a kiss, especially when other people are present,” “Is my hair brushed?,” “Order some Chinese food,” and “When in doubt get counseling.”

The set, which arrived so late that the original opening night performance had to be cancelled, consisted of some old couches, a poorly painted cloth backdrop, and a ton of books, from which Miss Abigail read the quotes of experts. This is a low cost tour, with seemingly low level expectations. One can only wonder what the producers were thinking when they decided to send it on the road.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The show’s websites list “reviews” from viewers as they exited the show. One person wrote what turns out to be my view of the show: “The idea was good but script was so bad that I couldn't really laugh even though I wanted to.”