Have I Got a Girl For You
nytheatre.com review by Steven Cherry
August 11, 2012
Have I Got a Girl For You is a mostly funny and fun show. Taking its basic character relationships from the iconic film All About Eve, it’s long on cultural references, mostly to musical theatre, and, like its model, short on subtext.
As any FringeNYC Festival aficionado can be expected to recall, in the movie, Margo is an aging grande dame of Broadway. Eve, in the role that defined the modern ingénue, is the acolyte who craftily aids, ingratiates, undermines, and finally supersedes her mentor and benefactress.
In the current play, Gina is a grande dame of the escort business world. She hires Josh, an unemployed AA-attending gay émigré to south Florida (a more nicely unlikely ingénue could hardly be imagined) as her receptionist cum dispatcher. He inevitably learns the business all too well and soon (but not soon enough, leading to some pacing problems for the show) begins scheming with a wealthy john and with Gina’s top escort to open a rival agency. Josh is a much more aggressive usurper than Eve was, not only actively but angrily destroying Gina personally as well as professionally. (Gina is, to be sure, even more egotistical, petty, and mean than Margo was. But a note to the playwright, Josh Mesnik, who also stars in the eponymous role: Don’t worry, we’ll root for Josh even if Gina isn’t so one-dimensionally unsympathetic.)
The play starts with a long, expository message from Josh’s mother on his voicemail The exposition continues throughout, in the form of several frequently-asked-questions-styled tutorials in which Josh directly addresses the audience.
The FAQs, explaining the logistics, finances (though numbers are definitely not Mesnik’s forte), and legalities of the escort business, are mostly interesting enough. More seriously problematic, though, the plot is thin—in the absence of subtext, we can see Josh’s takedown of Gina from a mile away (two miles for audience members who take note of the many explicit references to All About Eve in the show itself and in the program notes), and in the absence of major subplots, the road to the overlong climax is insufficiently rocky.
Perhaps that’s the reason Josh’s character becomes so thoroughly mean-spirited, a meanness that leaves little room in the second half for the humor that deliciously infuses the show’s first 30 or 40 minutes. Josh is a one-man walking encyclopedia of theatre, show tunes, and film who wittily mocks the ignorance of everyone around him, and his kindness and cleverness in managing the delicate needs and sensibilities of the various escort women is exceptionally well thought out.
A bit of reshaping, subtext, and second-act humor would go a long way toward giving Have I Got a Girl For You its rightful place in FringeNYC as a must-see show.