Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van
nytheatre.com review by Alyssa Simon
August 22, 2009
Anyone who has ever been involved in theatre will recognize the characters from Mary Lynn Dobson's Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van. There is the antacid gobbling artistic director, always on the edge of a meltdown from offstage drama caused by the neurotic leading lady, a director who gets his "avant-garde" interpretations of the classics through CliffsNotes, stoner techies who live to make fun of the talent, and young actors with great ideas about how to improve a show by expanding their parts. It is due to the remarkable cast, however, that we relate to them as well.
Mike is a high school teacher with a Master's in literature. He spends his summers stage managing at a community playhouse with his colleagues Vondo, the school janitor who is the theatre's jack-of-all-trades, and light operator Jeannie, the school librarian. They meet Scott, the costume designer, who, although no one is shocked, comes out as gay in the first act.
The theatre is struggling financially and in order to keep the patronage of one "Aunt Phyllis," the artistic director Jeff must let her nephew, Eric, direct. His pretentious concepts include Dolly Levi from Hello, Dolly! as a pimp and encouraging the innocent and underage Robin as Leisl in The Sound Of Music to explore her character's blossoming sexuality by not wearing underwear on stage. He also—along with Daniel, a chorus boy who angles for a tap number in Medea—attempts to push their original play "Mime! The Musical" into the season.
That's basically the plot. What makes it thoroughly enjoyable is to see everyone on stage own the style of this fast-paced (one) door-slamming farce. Terri Sturtevant as Harriet, a middle-age housewife who is everything the younger and insecure leading lady Meredith does not want to be, shines in a low-key manner that perfectly balances the sillier moments—and there are a lot of silly moments.
On the night I was there, the packed audience laughed long and hard at each one and gave the deserving cast a standing ovation. How could they not, with Gordon Joseph Weiss's spot-on portrayal of Vondo, the sweet-natured hippie with a Yoo-Hoo obsession, Letitia D. Townes's dead-pan wise cracks as Jeannie, and Jim Stanek's portrayal of sweet and sensible Mike?
Also deserving of mention are Madeline Blue, wonderful as the naive Robin; Jonathan Wierzbicki and Stephen Medvidick, a great bad-guy comic duo as Eric and Daniel; Rick Delaney as the gentle Scott; and Paul De Pasquale as the apoplectic Jeff. Last but by no means least is Natascia Diaz as the socially inept wannabe diva Meredith. That's the whole cast; there is not one weak link in this fine ensemble.
Vivid costumes by Sue Takacs and James Herrera add to many visual jokes and nail the characters' personalities perfectly. At over two hours, the production is a bit long and some gags could be cut down. There are a lot of truly funny lines and some that don't quite land, but Dobson, who also directs, keeps the pace moving and, I know I am repeating myself, with a group of actors this fun to watch and who seem to be having a great time themselves, it is a pleasure to see this show.