I Love Paris
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
March 21, 2005
I Love Paris is a one-man show in which an actor pretends to be a woman so infatuated with her own superiority as a mega-celebrity that she'll say just about anything about anybody as long as we keep looking at her.
If you realize that I have also just described the premise of Dame Edna's shows, you've got the picture. I Love Paris, written by Doug Field and directed by Timothy Haskell, offers us Paris Hilton as a lower-rent, lower-brow, lower-IQ version of Barry Humphries's fabulous creation; as a result—and because Paris is a real person who has already caricatured herself more than Dame Edna can ever hope to caricature whatever it is that she's caricaturing—it is somewhat less fabulous. The central gag wears thin very quickly: Paris is a media whore, a slut, and not very bright—what else is new? But the show's modus operandi—which reminded me of nothing so much as Joan Rivers's bread-and-butter comedy routines during her heyday as Johnny Carson's favorite guest some 20-odd years ago—actually works pretty well. "She is my best gal pal," our faux-Paris will announce, pointing to an issue of Vogue or Us or something similar on which Christina Aguilar or Julia Roberts is the cover girl; and then Paris will lower the boom, usually in a vulgar or off-color way, scoring the laugh.
Now, familiarity with very contemporary (well, at least the past year or so) pop culture will enhance your understanding of the gags in I Love Paris. I admit that there was at least one "best gal pal" that I had never heard of. But on the plus side, you don't really have to know very much about, say, Nicole Richie, to titter at a crude put-down at her expense.
One of the things that Paris attempts that Dame Edna does not is a commentary on sexual politics. The actor playing our young wannabe-wannabe is not in drag; in fact, he appears only in his underpants when the show begins, very clearly male, and slowly does a reverse striptease to fully dress himself by the time the thing is over. I'm not entirely sure what point Field and Haskell are hoping to make with this arresting choice; I am positive, though, that a woman doing the same thing would have altered the dynamic catastrophically, turning something like satire into sheer offense. So, good call, gentlemen.
Casting Aaron Haskell as Paris is also a good call. (He's the third actor to take the part, but the only one I've seen.) Haskell, who is the director's younger brother, is one of New York's most talented and versatile young actors, and it's great to see him in a role that lets his show off his chops as clown, dancer, and comedian. He captures the clueless faux-ingenuous-guilelessness perfectly, and holds our attention from first moment to last.
The framing device that Field has provided for I Love Paris—that Hilton is waiting in her dressing room for an audition to be on The View—makes no sense and should be dispensed with. I suggest, instead, more interactivity with the voyeuristic audience that is flocking to this show. The real Paris wouldn't be above borrowing a usable idea from her betters; this Paris should be similarly fearless, and go all the way in bringing the Dame Edna experience to the young, skanky demographic where she's kind of star.