nytheatre.com review by Kate Ward
So handsome, so talented: Greg Bratman and
Tommy Dewey are all over the place in Natalie: a Mop Story, and
they are so much fun to watch.
August 15, 2003
We are never quite sure why Natalie has surrendered her cherished son to a Pennsylvania orphanage. Equally mysterious is her decision to board a transatlantic freighter from England to reclaim him (don’t they have airplanes?). And we know little of her feelings as she becomes the target of a There’s Something About Mary-esque obsession. She is a silent enigma underneath her platinum blond locks. Poor Natalie. She’s only a mop after all. She’s also a great plot device.
Conceived and performed by Bratman and Dewey, Natalie is basically a sketch show linked together and propelled forward by the title character’s urgent quest. A tortured sea-captain, a villainous ex-husband, and a dockworker poet are just a few of the off-the-wall characters improbably invested in Natalie’s return to New York Harbor. The show is a cheeky travelogue in which everyone learns a little something about life, love, and loss. "Everybody’s got scabs, boy. Just be glad they’re on your shins," says a desperado cowboy to his precocious young charge.
The production feels like a raucous senior class revue in the hands of sophisticated comedians. Bratman and Dewey jump from thickening subplot to even more thickening subplot with boisterous enthusiasm, producing a delicious mix of dry absurdism and well-timed slapstick along the way. They both shine. Oh, yeah, and they’re both really good-looking.
Although a certain meandering silliness is part of the show’s appeal, it could use some tightening up, especially in the beginning. The ironically sentimental back story wears a little thin after the introduction of the umpteenth character. Also, they could be a little more prudent in their irreverence. I heard a few whispers in the audience after an unfortunate, "Let’s roll!"
Director Merry Alderman has done a fine job in shaping this show. With design consultant Sarah Krainin, the team creates a number of distinct worlds without which it would be impossible to follow the plot. Composer David Turner helps rev up the action with a hilarious musical-theatre send up that rivals any number from Forbidden Broadway.
Bratman and Dewey are funny. They’ve got it. Let’s hope they work hard and continue their collaboration.