No One Finer Than Frank Shiner
nytheatre.com review by David Hilder
August 16, 2010
Music of the 1950s gives us the time, and two young women in brightly colored dresses with full skirts complete the picture: Welcome to Wholesome America, mid-20th century style. Only what's to come is considerably less wholesome than it seems, as these girls reveal that they are in fact stalking the multi-talented, world-famous Frank Shiner outside his presumably gated estate. Each imagines herself with Frank, despite myriad other young women with exactly the same notion (apparently they caravan to the estate together on a daily basis, ensuring each has the same potential access to the coveted Front Gate positions). Kate and Marla are attractive, single-minded, and entirely deluded—well, not entirely so, in Marla's case, as she reveals to Kate in the first half of the uneven No One Finer Than Frank Shiner.
This short play is even less than the sum of its parts; once the novelty of the set-up has worn off (rather quickly, as it happens), it's hard to say what exactly playwright Sinead Daly is investigating. Women's roles in the 1950s, the magnetic power of celebrity, the validity of divergent life choices...all these concepts come into play, but none comes into focus, and none is particularly fresh. Director Danielle Kourtesis begins with a heavy hand in what is meant to be the more humorous section, but as the play gains more gravity and her work relaxes, the evening becomes more interesting. The actors are certainly game. Aja Nisenson, as Marla, is willing if not overly winning. And Anne Troup, as the steadfast Kate, offers a seriously terrific performance, more interesting than the play it's part of.
Nicely designed on all fronts (Arianna E. Funk, costumes; Lauren Bremen, lighting; Jason Black, props; and Michael Kugler, sound), No One Finer Than Frank Shiner is well put together, but not particularly fresh.