nytheatre.com review by Joshua Chase Gold
August 13, 2008
Paper Dolls, which had its debut tonight at the Players Theatre, gives its audience a roller coaster ride through the world of scandal and tabloid journalism. When the tables turn on New York City gossip columnist Claire Cunningham, she and her brother Austin, a grown-up former child star, become targets of ridicule. Throw in Claire's ex-assistant, Tammy, and Austin's one-night-stand-turned-girlfriend, Isabel, and this mixed bag of nuts is an interesting one to watch.
Playwright Patrick Huguenin, a gossip columnist in his own right, provides us with a glimpse into the lippy world of "fabulous" New York. Complete with Madonna references and gay jokes, Huguenin's dialogue is charming and rather well written. The funny happenings and silly antics deliver a likable evening. While the dialogue is immediate and moves at a nice pace, I found the story itself lacking a bit. When Claire starts to rage against her brother and the plot begins to thicken with bizarre twist after twist, I found myself beginning to wonder if the show would have been better ending 20 minutes earlier. While I was entertained by this world of scandals and gossip, it seemed that the script fell short of anything beyond the surface level; after all, the "plight" of the waspy gossip columnist was a hard one to care for at the end of the evening.
Led by director Gaye Taylor Upchurch, the cast offers several nice performances. The standout of the evening is Isabel, played by Ashley Morris. Irresistible to watch and delectable to listen to, Morris's performance combines outlandish hilarity with some genuinely beautiful moments. Siblings Claire and Austin, played respectively by Jen Jamula and Billy Magnussen, have nice chemistry together. Jamula's Claire is reserved and well put together, but never once did I see any flickering that would lead me to believe this woman would be capable of writing the biting things she does. Magnussen warmed up into his performance and was most effective when he had the opportunity to share intimate moments of honesty with his castmates. Allison Goldberg's Tammy, Claire's ex-assistant, nicely shows us an annoying glimpse into the kind of people who feel entitled to success, fame, and money.
Although when all was said and done I was not really sure what to take away, or what Huguenin's message was, Paper Dolls is an amusing display of infidelity, greed, jealousy, and wit.