nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
January 27, 2007
Lady ChardonnEy is a one-act (billed as a comedy, but more a comedy/drama) by Julio Tumbaco and Jim Gibson, in which a cabaret star with a secret tries to push her former-mob-member boyfriend to marry her. In old-fashioned terms, the lady won't give away the milk unless the fellow buys the cow. In slightly less old-fashioned terms, the lady might not be that much of a real lady.
This is an entertaining little romp, with convincing performances across the board—in particular Drake Andrew, who plays the slick, slimy Ranzoni. Everything about the actor's physicality and line delivery convinced me that this is a former mobster who wants nothing more than to get his vampy girlfriend into the sack.
Dee Spencer, who plays the title role, could have used what seemed an inherent natural diva to work the role even more. This is a story about a woman who used to be a guy and then chooses to be a cabaret singer, a prime opp for even more grandstanding. What Spencer does quite effectively is give a deeper, sympathetic quality to the character, which is a feat considering that the role mostly has her delivering sassy lines. One really gets that this woman wants to be married and stable and loved, even if it is by her shifty former-mafioso-who-still-hasn't-gotten-divorced boyfriend.
What was particularly interesting to me is the concept that a woman who comes from a very nontraditional background would choose for her mate a particularly macho, traditional male/female roles type of guy. I can't be the expert on how this plays out in real life, but it did make perfect sense to me that a woman in this situation would want to marry a guy whose solid masculinity would abolish any concerns she might have about her own "real womanhood."
There was one speech that troubled me, where the presence of a male sexual organ is regarded as making a woman partly a man, and the absence of a man's sexual organ is regarded as making someone partly a woman; implying that being a woman doesn't mean actually having female genitalia/power, etcetera, but that a woman can be looked at as just a man without the equipment. I could have been happier with some more convincing take on what does or does make someone a member of either sex.
The shift from comedy/drama to pure drama also happened a bit too fast for my taste. I know this is common in stories, for things to start off light and then the plot kicks in and things get darker, but I could have handled a few more laughs toward the end.