Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes To Provincetown
nytheatre.com review by Montserrat Mendez
August 17, 2010
One of my favorite parts about reviewing FringeNYC is that you often don't know what you're signing up for. Sure you get to look at the description of the show. But you never really know for sure; you are picking based on some instinct, on a few words on a website or in the case of Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes to Provincetown, because of its title.
The best experiences however, are the ones where you go in with expectations and they are defied or surpassed for entirely different reasons. I went in expecting hilarity, and yes there is some of that, but I never went in expecting to be moved, surprised, and I may even say just a little changed by the experience.
And that's because Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes to Provincetown is terrific: Not just a one-man show, but a fully realized theatrical story about a young gay man, Joe, who is getting older, has self-doubts, is alone, and finds himself sharing his body with a pre-Civil War debutante who, after having died due to an unfortunate encounter with a piece of pork, finds herself in the body of said gay man in present-day New York.
The young man has packed his Banana Republic trousers and his insecurities and has sent himself on a birthday adventure to Provincetown, and it is on the train there that we first meet Miss Magnolia. But it's not until Joe realizes that he has Miss Magnolia Beaumont, debutante, living inside of him that comedy truly ensues.
What follows is an adorable give and take, as a lost soul attempts to find common ground with her host, and Joe attempts to figure out how to have a good time in Provincetown, with a young and prudish Southern lady stuck inside of him.
Miss Magnolia is shocked and appalled by the young mans proclivities, and she has something to say about everything, his choice of wardrobe, his choice of curse words, and his choice of sexual partners.
But ultimately, there is more than one lost soul on the stage, as Miss Magnolia makes Joe realize that his insecurities have turned him into a ghost of the person he truly wishes he could be. A scene in which Miss Magnolia completely takes over his body so she can teach him how to properly land a Southern gentleman is smashing. Not only because it's hilarious, but because it sends a message: all you need to do to really connect with someone is let your guard down, start a conversation, and share a little bit of yourself. It's that easy and yes it's that difficult.
Joe Hutcheson is absolutely exceptional, both as himself and as Miss Magnolia; his transformation from one to the other is flawless. And what's more you can tell that he loves doing it. And that in itself is infectious. This is the first one-man show ever where I managed to suspend disbelief. I believed Miss Magnolia was real, and I believed the play was real. As a matter of fact, I remember a set that wasn't even there based on Hutcheson's descriptions of Provincetown, and I remember scenes between them that weren't even there, because I'm imagining Miss Magnolia in my head, having conversations with Joe (in my head Miss Magnolia looks a bit like a young Dixie Carter). I credit Hutcheson's ability as a storyteller to cast a spell, in which you let go of logic and let your imagination take you on a journey.
And ultimately, letting go and taking the journey is what Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes to Provincetown is about. It's also about friendship, the most important friendship of all. The one you have with yourself.
There are plays you give nice reviews to, and there are ones you highly recommend. This one is one of the latter. No matter who you are, I am pretty sure you will find you have some things in common with Joe, and Miss Magnolia, and their journey. Because their journey is ultimately one we're are all on.