Stars in My Eyes
nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
July 23, 2006
Stars in My Eyes is an enjoyable series of vignettes, based on interpretations of poems by Edward Field, directed and adapted by Michael Boothroyd. Snippets of background music by Chopin and Mendelssohn create a nice mood. Generally, the poems are read by one actor while being performed by others. This show is a delightful experience, with all of the actors seeming comfortable in this loving tribute. The poems feel like short synopses, relaying tales (some true, some not) about Joan Crawford, Mae West, the Bride of Frankenstein, Greta Garbo, and other movie greats.
The actors make no attempts to look like the stars they're portraying, for better or worse: On the one hand, I didn't quite buy it when the fresh-faced Charlotte Miller was delivering these lines about Mae West as though she owned them: "She comes on drenched in a perfume called self-satisfaction, from feather boa to silver pumps." But on the other hand, it also came across like a fan admiring an icon, rather than our thinking we're seeing an embodiment of West onstage. (At the same time, Miller is completely convincing when crooning these song lyrics to music she wrote herself: "A woman's eyes are pools of sin / Don't look too long, they'll lure you in.")
Benjamin Solomon pluckily announces each new segment with an effortless charm that reminds us what a good time we're having, and that we're here to enjoy the entertainment. James Gash, Jessica Jennings, and Ryan G. Metzger all do good work, and the striking Paige Rien is a powerful, stage-commanding dazzler. Rien plays Joan Crawford and other background roles and while the actress looks not a bit like Crawford and makes no pretense toward impression, she's a performer in full command of her inner dame.
I would have liked to have seen a more glammed-up set for this show. While the ladies and gentlemen all looked appropriately dolled up, small technical aspects such as a spotty floor or chairs that do not suit the period add small detractions. Likewise, the set changes were sometimes problematic, as there were moments the audience would sit in the dark with no sound for a few seconds before the music came on. Minor, I know, and this was opening night, but a smoother transition would have meant less chance of losing the other-time/other-place feeling.
I won't ruin the surprise, but the final scene is a complete treat. Here we get the most laughs and it's clear the actors are enjoying themselves and letting loose.
Some of the words of these poems are downright beautiful, as in this piece about former film star May Caspar: "Before she puts on her glasses, she takes a swig out of a large perfume bottle, and goes about painting a kewpie doll over the wreck of her face. Somehow it always comes out crooked." There's enough to look at and listen to here to make this 75-minute show certainly worth seeing.