Bathtub Jen and the Henchmen
nytheatre.com review by PJ Grisar
February 23, 2013
A scene from Bathtub Jen and the Henchmen | Linus Gelber
Under Saint Marks something not quite above board is brewing: a pair of prohibition-era con artists are on the run from a keystone cop and, lucky for us, we just happened to stumble into their hidey-hole. Appearing as part of the 2013 Frigid Festival, Bathtub Jen and the Henchmen, devised by David Rosen alongside performers Jennifer Harder, Glen Heroy, and Charley Layton, is a piquant cocktail of vaudeville, cabaret, ever-satisfying slapstick, and a tinge of steampunk style.
Bathtub Jen and her partner-in-crime husband, Ivan are in a bit of a tight spot. They are happy to perform some old standards for you, but, since passions are at a high, and that old Commissioner Kelly (not the one you're thinking of) is hot on their heels, you’ll forgive them if they have a few hiccups. If Jen mistakes her Russian-born hubby’s name for a former Soviet First Secretary, or Ivan makes some pointed remarks about Jen’s one eye with some alternate lyrics to “Has Anybody Seen my Gal,” it’s due to a certain amount of duress. Even if this couple has been “on the lam so long it’s become mutton” their chemistry is more Stiller and Meara than Bonnie and Clyde. Theirs is a marriage “not of love,” and Jen often laments the loss of her exes while reveling in her complex feelings for Commissioner Kelly via song and monologue. In the end, though, it’s all about the money. Jen and Ivan are holed up performing till Kelly makes with their take—which could take some time.
This trio-cum-love triangle do it all, playing through the great American songbook (plus an import, rib-tickling cover of Radiohead’s Karma Police) with vim and verve. Jen plays a mean trumpet for a gal with one hand, Ivan does double-duty on accordion and ukulele, and the fumbling Commissioner Kelly is on percussion, spoons, a traffic cone megaphone, and in one instance, Jen – I won’t say how.
Building to a punchy conclusion, the Bathtub Jen and the Henchmen is a forty-five minute love letter to theatrical invention, music, and even the films of Quentin Tarantino. The ensemble of Harder (Jen), Heroy (Kelly), and Layton (Ivan) are entertainers of the first order and are not to be missed.