Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Pulp"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Larry Stark


by Patricia Kane
with Music by Amy Warren and Andre Pluess
Lyrics by Patricia Kane
Directed by Jason Southerland
Musical Direction by Josh Finstein

Set Design by Zeynep Bakkal
Lighting Design by John Malinowski
Makeup Design by Richard Sullivan
Costume Design by Rachel Padula Shufelt
Sound Concept Josh Finstein & Jason Southerland
Props Design by Jennifer Bean
Production Dramaturg Bridget Frey
Assistant Stage Manager Patrick Schneider
Production Stage Manager Mary P. Costello

Terry Logan.......Dayle Ballentine
Pepper...........Stephanie Carlson
Bing.................Whitney Cohen
Winny.............Lindsay Flathers
Vivian (& Sarge)...Maureen Keiller

Keyboards....Josh Finstein
Percussion......Brian Flan
Bass...........Rob Simring

"so how was Pulp?"
HILARIOUS! Just the right mix of satire, parody, camp, fresh-faced-innocence and pure depravity in one neatly-boiled-down act to satisfy every perverted taste. (All of mine, anyway....)

The five women here --- in a coctail lounge pointedly called "The Well" in late July of 1956 --- are "people of a certain ilk" who take turns singing while cross-dressed. The narrator-figure (Dayle Ballentine) is "a lesbian and I make no bones about it!" though some of her co-workers remain obscure or unsure, and the boss-lady (Maureen Keiller) insists there be no customers in the bedroom upstairs. The style here is B-movie Noir, the dialogue studded with metaphors that would make Raymond Chandler green with envy, and the over-acting and (throooom!) under-scoring by lights and sounds out-camp Gloria Swanson at her sexually ambiguous best. It's a wonder a plot has a chance to develop here at all --- but one and several sub-lings do in this long, lush, hilarious one-act.

Designer Zeynep Bakkal has re-created the shoulder-rubbing claustrophobia of the club scene with the audience at tables on both sides of a narrow playing-area, a bar at one end, the entrance at the other, a tiny stage on which to sing, and dark-red plush curtains and an ornate chandelier to suggest mid-'50s tawdry. Rachel Padula Shufelt has duplicated the well-stuffed blouses and bustiers on the covers of Gold Key paperbacks that always promised more than they delivered. The lipsticks are slut-red and the hearts-of-gold hard to find --- at least at first.

We have here Winny --- short for "Winchester" --- (Lindsay Flathers) who's most comfortable in a tux and eager to shoot skeet against men (and win!) even if it may piss of her boyfriend. We have Pepper (Stephanie Carlson) who's helpfully supportive of everyone but still waiting for a one-true-love. We have Bing Cherry (Whitney Cohen) who knows what she wants (and from whom) but no control over her motor-mouth directness. We have the ultra-rich Vivian (Keiller) whose sizzlingly sexy song in a pure-white tux might give her rich fiance second thoughts. Or thirds. And we have the new-come Terry Logan (Ballentine), former WAC ready to do her flying in other ways.

This is actually Not a "musical" but the songs by Amy Warren and Andre Pluess (lyrics by playwright Patricia Kane), like the plush red hangings, give an added dimension to the ambience, a chance for the girls to compete for attention, and occasional hints about emotional subtexts. There IS more than surface here, and Director Jason Southerland reveals all --- all in due time.



"Pulp" (29 September - 15 October)
Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 933-8600

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide