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Vice Girl Confidential

nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
August 12, 2006

The only problem with this hilarious, tightly directed parody of 1930s and '40s exploitation films is that it had to end. Vice Girl Confidential, written by Todd Michael and directed by Neal Sims, is smart, laugh-inducing, and perfect.

The plot revolves around a vice racket led by Duke Craigie (Sims), a brothel run by battle-axe matron Stella Duvall (Michael), and a town begging to be cleaned up by D.A. Walter Slade (Christopher Yustin, delivering fierce deadpan). Through some of the tightest direction I've seen lately, Sims not only keeps the pacing fast and furious, but knows exactly when actors should play to the audience and when they should respond to each other.

All the acting is terrific here, as the actors display supreme adeptness at the style they are portraying. Michael, in baubly drag as Stella Duvall, is unbelievably funny, with a performance reminiscent of Charles Busch's in Die Mommy Die, yet completely his own. The use of drag here is a wise choice: It's not about "a man in woman's clothes is always funny"; rather, that this tough-cookie, more-woman-than-the-average-woman character makes sense played by a solid, relentless male actor. Everything Michael does wins laughs, from eyebrow-raises to cheek-sucking, to delivery of lines such as "I've been double-crossed like the 6th Avenue L." Other funnies include "Nothing so much adds to the appearance of respectability as an ermine coat worn once" and vibrant, coquettish prostitute Flo Briton (Sarah Bunker) saying, "I have always relied on the kindness of strangers...usually men."

Another standout here is the elastic-faced Walter J. Hoffman (Muggsy Regan/Edgar Baldwin). From the start, when we see Hoffman's character being interrogated by Slade and Trigger Martin (Johnny Calone, who appears to have stepped right out of a '40s gangster flick with one of the best time-appropriate accents here), Hoffman's ability to contort classically handsome features into cartoon like faces and physically embody his character is striking. Hoffman's performance is so good that my companion and I discussed post-show that when the actor returned to the stage in another character after we thought he was done, we both thought, "Yay, he's back!"

Jill Yablon, Amy Henderson, and Jeff Auer all do wonderful, perfectly timed work, and look terrific in the stylized outfits (which are all brightly over-the-top). The exit music played after the performance I saw was the 1944 hit "One Meatball," which only made me love this experience more. I highly recommend Vice Girl Confidential as a guaranteed good time and an impressive night of theatre.