NUDISTS IN LOVE
nytheatre.com review by Jason S. Grossman
August 14, 2008
There is some good, clean fun offered at the 2008 FringeNYC in the new musical comedy Nudists in Love. In the perfect (and apparently very white) town of Gardenia, USA, everything runs like a well-oiled suburban machine right down to the cheerful pastel dresses and perky ties. Everything is fine until wife Tina finds husband Trevor's BlackBerry and a suggestive email that could mean Trevor is gay. But, alas, Trevor's dirty little secret is he's a nudist (one week out of the year). Well, no one can keep a secret, and soon Roger, the ubiquitous nerdy antagonist, wants to use the information to usurp Trevor as President of the Homeowner's Association. Residents of Gardenia are aghast, and the town will never be the same.
The play is perfect for people who love their screwball comedies straight, not shaken or stirred, with only a twist of raciness.
It's a balanced, complete script, even if somewhat tame. Part of the fun is that the residents of Gardenia make a whole lot out of a little. Elements of American suburban life are appropriately presented: the homeowner's meetings, cheering at the kids' soccer games (which is put to very good use), and a whole lot of discussion of the above.
But things aren't all fun and games here as writers Nirmal Chandraratna (music and lyrics) and Shannon Thomason (book) up the ante with songs like "Not in My Backyard," which nails the myopic separatist attitude of small-town USA.
Sara Thigpen's direction is solid and she keeps the story humming along at an excellent pace. The show truly benefits when it gets a little bawdy. The women sing a rant about the shortcomings of the modern heterosexual male in "The Fine Print." The final resolution to our story is rousing fun.
Happily, this is a professional cast living comfortably in a musical comedy world. They sail through the proceedings with verve and sing with requisite polish and style. The band also does not disappoint. When a little skin is shown it's wonderful to see that the residents of Anytown, USA come in all shapes and sizes.
Adam J. MacDonald is the likable, if extremely relaxed, well-meaning protagonist. Kristin Maloney is terrific as his wife. Todd Faulkner hits all the rights notes in book and song as the chief antagonist and his performance of "Pull the Weeds" is one of the highlights of the show. Beth Ann Leone and Bj Hemann are huggably lovable as the best couple friends of our heroes. Hemann hits comedic high notes when he struts his stuff with his semi-striptease in "When I Turn it On."
Nudists in Love sends a message to embrace our dreams and tolerate the dreams of others. The message is served with a great deal of honey.