Looking back over my blog's first five years, I realized—I need to invest my time more wisely! My longest favorite posts were worth every hour spent, while some of my lengthy explorations of movies and shows and current affairs that nobody cares about anymore and that I wasn't invited to cover just look like a lot of wasted energy in retrospect. This applies to my first topic in this post, the disappointing musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, based on the classic film by Pedro Almodovar, though not to my second topic in this post, the slight but endearing movie Violet Tendencies.
I wasn't invited to see and review Women on the Verge and it's not a show that invites deep analysis so much as faint praise—it's not terrible, it's not hard to sit through, but it's not good and it's not Almodovar.
Already suffering stormy reviews (it's getting raped like Kika), Women on the Verge deserves them for the most part—it's a mess. The direction by Bartlett Sher (who's done universally admired work on The Light in the Piazza, South Pacific and Joe Turner's Come and Gone) is inexplicably amateurish and scattered and the look of the musical is at times embarrassingly silly. Sher's going for whimsical and chaotic, hoping to take us back to Almodovar's Madrid of the '80s, but this is not accomplished by lame taxi cabs "driving" around onstage with ridiculous video-game projections behind them.
I went back and forth with my feelings about Sherie Rene Scott as Pepa, physically reminiscent Carmen Maura from the original film; her sweet voice was pure and helped give her character heart, but I think it made me disbelieve the edge she should also have. Justin Guarini as horny Carlos was competent and charming but in no way brought to his role what Antonio Banderas did all those years ago. Laura Benanti has a classic song called "Model Behavior" in which her airheaded Candela leaves a series of phone messages for Pepa, but her performance of the character sinks in the second act to Chrissy Snow territory minus the snorting. Brian Stokes Mitchell is just phoning it in, albeit handsomely.
The one reason to see the show (as opposed to buying the cast recording, which will be filled with highly listenable tunes) is Patti LuPone, who completely connects with loony, deranged Lucia and whose performance of "Invisible" (similar to Chicago's "Mister Cellophane") fleshes out her character even better than Almodovar's film did originally.
But still, even with those highlights, the show is marred by a persistent feeling of pointlessness, by the mismatching accents (Scott's is almost nonexistent, others Charo it up hammily) and by the sense that while the songs have a great Latin cadence, the actors are incapable of channeling it. It's ultimately just Almodovar drag, and the fact that it doesn't work better is a drag, too.
So that is my short review.
From that to the movies, back over to the Quad for the New York premiere of the Casper Andreas-directed film Violet Tendencies, in which he's got his best title and best concept—The Facts of Life's Mindy Cohn as 40-year-old fag hag Violet, a girl who just wants to find a man who loves all of her, even her pussy.