Review: DIRTY BLONDE At CV Rep

Now playing at CV Rep through January 29, 2023.

By: Jan. 19, 2023
Review: DIRTY BLONDE At CV Rep
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Adam Karsten took the helm at CV Rep in the summer of 2022. His season opener was the quirky and rather perplexing The Humans which he followed up with Fun Home, an unconventional musical, which hit me extremely hard in the feels.

"And now," as Monty Python would say, "for something completely different" he has brought us Claudia Shear's Tony-nominated Dirty Blonde, a fun, sexy, ribald romp of a story within a story chronicling the life of Mae West through two rather ordinary people with an extraordinary love of all things Mae.

If you aren't familiar with Mae West let me tell you about the time she played The Chi Chi Club in Palm Springs. It was in the 1950s, and Mae was in her late fifties. Her act consisted of six bulging muscle men dressed in loincloths parading around her while she reclined on an eiderdown chaise drinking tea served by a black maid, comedienne Louise Beavers. It was the ultimate in camp. When a writer from Playboy asked Mae to define "camp," she didn't miss a beat, "Camp is the kinda comedy where they imitate me." Oh.

Cady Huffman shines as both Mae West and as Jo, an unrealized actress, who meets Charlie (Joshua Morgan), a film archivist, at Mae West's crypt. They're both there to wish Mae a posthumous happy birthday.

Review: DIRTY BLONDE At CV Rep Jo loves Mae's wit, she was a take-no-prisoners woman in a time when woman were more often the prisoners than the warden. Her love of Mae is dwarfed only by Charlie's. Like Mae, Jo shares a healthy outlook toward sex (or so she tells us).

Charlie has been fascinated by Mae since he was a young boy. When he was seventeen, he would stand outside Mae's front door with hopes of meeting her. And one day, he does. He shares those stories, photos, and all things Mae with Jo. It's a "will they or won't they situation" with the prerequisite wrench thrown in. But I'll admit, it's a pretty good wrench.

Review: DIRTY BLONDE At CV Rep Interspersed with that, is a light-hearted romp through Mae's past - the long vaudevillian road to her success on stage, and eventually film, is chronicled with Morgan and Broadway veteran William Ryall playing the characters that come and go in her life.

This production is all pro. All three actors can belt out a song (did I mention it's a musical? It's a musical), and all three have superior comic timing.

Huffman delivers all of Mae's zingers with the appropriate sass and sexual innuendo. Her first appearance as Mae she had the house eating out of the palm of her hand.

Her Jo is fun, and although she seems to know herself well, she finds out she might have a little more to know.

Ryall has the lion's share of the side characters, from Mae's husband, to her companion, to her maid. He reminds me of John Malkovich and not just in looks; some of his characters have that dry delivery Malkovich does so well. On the other hand, some of his characterizations are intensely vaudevillian, but all of them are highly entertaining.

Review: DIRTY BLONDE At CV Rep While all of the actors are terrific, there is usually one that I can't stop watching. In this production it is Joshua Morgan. His Charlie is a sympathetic nerd, a guy who lives in the past every day, but finally begins to enjoy his present as his relationship with Jo grows. He also plays a few side characters including W.C. Fields and a hilarious turn as a drag queen. Twice, Morgan steps to the piano and plays it brilliantly.

Director Philip Wm. McKinley has an impressive directing resume including hi-octane Broadway productions Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark and five-time Tony nominated The Boy From Oz with Hugh Jackman. He gives no less to this show. The direction is crisp, and the pace is quick keeping all eyes on the stage at all times.

Review: DIRTY BLONDE At CV Rep Production values were also top-notch with special shout outs to Frank Cazares' costume design and Emma Bibo on wardrobe with additional thumbs up to Lynda Shaeps hair and makeup design.

Moire Wilke's lighting was spot-on as usual, and the sound design by Joshua Adams with Kiki Roller on audio did a great job of enhancing the action.

Dirty Blonde at CV Rep plays through January 29th.

*Photography by David A. Lee

Dirty Blonde written by Claudia Shear

Director: Philip Wm. McKinley

Musical Director: Michael Reno

Cast:

Jo/Mae: Cady Huffman

Charlie and others: Joshua Morgan

Ed Hearn, Frank Wallace, and others: William Ryall

Creative and Production:

Scene and Set Design: Jimmy Cuomo

Sound Design: Joshua Adams

Technical Director/Lighting Design: Moira Wilke

Hair and Makeup Designer: Lynda Shaeps

Costume Design: Frank Cazares

Properties Design: Gus Sanchez

Stage Manager: John Galo

Assistant Stage Manager: Melina Ginn

Lightboard Operator: Kevin O'Shaughnessy

Audio: Karlene "Kiki" Roller

Wardrobe: Emma Bibo




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