nytheatre.com review by Julie Blumenthal
While it's inherently not my favorite genre, I appreciate light comedy
as much as the next Joe if it's well done. However, like a souffl�, if
comedic fare isn't executed properly, it falls flat and can be pretty
unappetizing. Sadly, this is the case with Emergency Non-Stop, a
"medical musical comedy" that despite its title comes screeching to a
halt all too frequently, and never manages to build up much momentum to
August 15, 2003
The plot is fairly standard: Shy but sex-kittenish nurse loves clueless and egotistical yet good-hearted doctor; dying President must be saved to avert a major war; throw in an incognito starlet, goofy gangsters, and give the nurse horns (well, I'm not sure why that was necessary) and you're all set. Writer-director John Cecil's script is clever enough, well-leavened with the requisite innuendo (the lovelorn nurse mourns that for the oblivious doctor of her affections, all she does is "handle his tools"), broad characterizations (with names to match), and plenty of one-liners of the camp/wince-worthy variety ("They just brought him in without a head—and the head is a very important part of the body."). The songs have a cute doo-wop flavor, and if they're not memorable, they are enjoyable.
As with all material of this style, pacing and delivery is 90% of the game. But under Cecil's direction, the show is neither bigger nor faster, and hence isn't very funny. There is some real talent on display: Military man General Quarters (Christopher Booth) comes the closest to supplying the needed size and energy to his role, but it's still a losing battle; Nurse Rose (Julee Sullivan) comes alive during her big number; and as B-movie star Karla Tartt, Thea McCartan has a lovely voice and vivacious energy. The remainder of the cast have their moments, and as a whole the ensemble makes a real effort. But overall, the effect is that of a school production: plenty of enthusiasm, but very little polish or direction.
A perfect example occurs in one number while Ms Tartt is under anesthesia. Midway through the song, she begins to clap along under her sheet. It's the right idea, but writ much too small. The show at large suffers from just such a muffling of its own potential. If Cecil and company can find a way to whip off the sheets, Emergency Non-Stop may get rolling.