nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
August 22, 2006
Neon Mirage is a selection of 14 plays about the glitz of Las Vegas, written by Liz Duffy Adams, Dan Dietz, Julie Jensen, Lisa Kron, Tracey Scott Wilson, and Chay Yew. It boasts 15 cast members from the 2006 Apprentice Company of Actors Theatre of Louisville, direction by Wendy McLellan, and songs by Rick Hip-Flores.
This is a series of vignettes that doesn't really cohere into a strong and unified whole. While the names on the writing roster are impressive (Kron, Wilson, and Yew have had work produced at places like the Public Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, and on Broadway), this really did feel more like a well-intended school production.
A stronger throughline might have helped. Instead the evening opens with a woman giving a foreboding speech implying some kind of doom will ultimately come. While there is a catastrophic vignette later in the show, the narrative between the plays is not strong enough for this to really make an impact or tie in with the beginning speech.
The lineup of topics includes a Katrina survivor resisting as a hotel worker pressures her into meeting Celine Dion when she really just wants a place to stay; two Vegas show-zebras talking about wanting out of the business; and one of my least favorite premises, akin to the ever-popular "homeless person meets privileged person and sheds light and wisdom on their mundane life" gambit, a piece where a drag queen and a Vegas gal meet and discuss serious issues (including a father's illness) within just a few minutes.
My favorite piece was "Some Such Luck," by Liz Duffy Adams, in which two people in Vegas have spent 15 hours together, some of it in bed, and the woman tries to convince the man to marry her. This piece has heart; it conveys the desperation and hunger that—it is implied throughout this show—bring people to Vegas, and actors Bryan Davis and Lauren Bauer play well off each other.
Another good one is "Air Conditioning" (by Hip-Flores, whose music and lyrics are consistently fun throughout), in which a bunch of mobsterish business men discuss the virtues of putting air conditioning into their club, and then sing one of the evening's many fine songs, involving the line "What do you need to make a splash / To show some style, to have panache? / Air conditioning!"
One aspect tying things together is the frequent appearance of a headdress-topped glittery showgirl, played by Stephanie Thompson, who has one heck of a beautiful singing voice. Kudos to costume designer John White for some very impressive outfits here, as well as for the Dick Tracy-esque zoot suits in "Air Conditioning."
This was an enjoyable enough event, though I can't say I came out of it with any more knowledge about the struggles of making it in Vegas or how the promise of a new life there is different from that in any other big city.