Two in the Bush!
nytheatre.com review by Daniel Kelley
February 29, 2008
Two in the Bush! is a one-woman show about Barbara Baumawitz, an earnest young ex-rabbinical student turned stripper who drives around the country in a van with a posse of other normal non-rabbinical strippers. Together they have a variety of wacky adventures. To some, this may seem like a hokey premise. However playwright/performer Tracey Erin Smith is able to transcend the frame of the piece with her heartfelt honesty. The adventures these friends have are an engaging and accessible way to explore issues of spirituality, and Smith's love of the characters she is creating, the issues she is exploring, and the audience she is performing for make Two in the Bush! a uniquely fun night at the theatre.
Two in the Bush! is the sequel to The Burning Bush!, presented in last year's FRIGID festival, for which it won the audience award. The play starts with Barbara Baumawitz and her stripping cohorts, traveling the countryside. A bigwig Hollywood producer offers them the opportunity to turn their adventures into a movie—making all of their wildest dreams come true. Barbara however, guided by her invisible guardian angel, Jackie Mason, refuses the Hollywood offer for the nobler goal of touring their little show for seniors at JCCs around the nation. Thus the adventure begins...
Throughout it all, Smith creates a wide variety of distinct and engaging characters. Whether she's playing the central character, the Jewish Martha Stewart, a stripper dancing to "Survivor" in tribute to the suffering of the Jewish people, or the legendary Jackie Mason himself, Smith has an earnest commitment that never comments and always entertains.
While the performance aspect is always engaging, the written play suffers a little dramatically. At several key moments in the show, major crises are resolved by simple changes of heart or coincidences that tend to deflate the drama rather than heighten it. It feels more episodic than dramatic, which may very well be the intention of the author—but left me, as an audience member, distanced from the characters at moments when I felt I should be getting closer to them.However, Two in the Bush! is a sincere piece of theatre that is at once funny and moving—with a fantastic energy and a real message of hope and love. It deals with deep spiritual issues in a way that is at once both reverent and irreverent, respecting the tradition and at the same time, allowing an audience who may be unfamiliar with it inside. At one point in the show, one of the strippers presents Kabbalah in two-and-a-half-minutes, using early Madonna lyrics. I don't know of any other show that could get away with doing that, and meaning it. For this reason, and many others, go check out Two in the Bush!