nytheatre.com review by Julie Congress
February 27, 2011
Pretty-n-Papi is a vehicle for three very strong female physical comediennes. More a piece of extended sketch comedy than a play, and rather coarse in places, Pretty-n-Papi follows the online dating woes of Ms. Pretty Smart. Every day is the same for Pretty as she waits to find her perfect match. She wakes up, hits the radio on with her foot, showers, has her coffee (obsessive-compulsively turning the cup 45 degrees every time she sets it down), struggles for her glasses, and opens up her MacBook in the hopes of finding her ideal mate.
Here is Pretty’s routine: She scours Princess Charmony, her online dating service, before going out on a date—which prompts a load of questions for an unwitting man in the audience. Once she’s done interrogating the audience member, we move into a fantasy world where we see that relationship played out for us. An old man with a pickle fetish, a beer-guzzling deadbeat, a polyamourous yogi, a singing lesbian, and the list goes on. The coffee cups and hair towels pile up in Pretty’s room as she goes on one disheartening odyssey after another. Even Princess Charmony herself, armed with solid dating tips like always looking tan and holding in one’s stomach, can’t help Pretty.
Olivia Hallie Lehrman is very good as Pretty. Her strong clowning background is evident and she brings a surprising honesty and heart to this character. This production showcases not only her excellent physical control but also her expert comedic timing and expressions. Leah James Abel adeptly and acrobatically portrays all of the men in the play and Rebecca Houlihan is charismatic as the girly, plasticine Princess Charmony.
Pretty-n-Papi relies heavily on audience interaction. Yet it is done in a more interrogative than gentle manner. I have to say I felt uncomfortable with much of the audience interaction—the guys put on the spot and asked repeated questions and, more so, many of the transitions between dates. Most uncomfortable was when Abel, as a mustachioed exercise freak, stood very close to the audience and, with an unnerving intensity, tried to get members of the audience to push his/her stomach for a carrot he/she took out of his/her pants.
Sayda Trujillo’s direction both brings out the inherent physical and comedic prowess of the performers and an inherent lack of substance to the show (which was developed by the actresses). That being said, if you are looking for an evening of light comedy and fine performances, you’ve found your perfect match in Pretty-n-Papi.