Scandal in Manhattan
nytheatre.com review by Lucile Scott
July 20, 2008
Scandal in Manhattan, a farce written and directed by Bobby Holder and produced by the Actors' Project NYC, places red and blue state inhabitants together in the lobby of a fancy Manhattan hotel and centers around two mysteries: Who killed Dove and Marge Colgate Zests' father by putting rat poison in the sugar bowl, and what is each of the sisters' relationship to the not-so-talented young singer/songwriter, Michael Buck, who is hit on by nearly everyone he encounters and who Evan Dahme plays with a graceful and sort of sweet Southern reserve. The answers unfolds as zaniness ensues, at times with the stage crammed with nearly every member of the dynamic 12-person ensemble cast.
The play opens with a series of monologues in which several characters take turns standing alone on stage to introduce themselves and their potential role in the mystery, often brandishing guns, masks, or wigs, with a tongue-in-cheek nod to setting up the possibility for a series of high jinks and calamities. The set and all of the costumes are red and black, effectively conjuring hope for sex, sin, and delicious scandal. But the play does not quite deliver on the well-executed set up. The characters never surpass caricatures and in the case of Edward, a European with leather gloves and a poisoned flask, the character's presence is not really explained and he seems to exist solely for the sake of having someone else with a gun on the stage.
Instead of delving deeper into the mystery it has set up and all the twists, turns, and dark family secrets that are implied, the play focuses on the interactions of the three Southern characters (the Colgate Zests and Buck) with Fred Fontaine (Joe Iozzi), a stereotypical flamboyantly gay concierge who can't stop hitting on straight men and cries over his lonely nights. Iozzi gives an exuberantly comic performance, but the shtick wears a little thin. Brittany Bell Spencer also gives a strong comic performance as the bumbling and vengeful mess of the younger of the two Colgate Zest sisters.
The resolution, when it comes, is not entirely satisfying or shocking and lets everyone walk away as a good guy. There is also a security guard, a maid, a women who sells roses, a lost tourist, and two honeymooners, creating an amusing amalgamation and image of the non-stop motion and craziness of Manhattan and how it all must appear to out-of-town visitors from rural Alabama. But scandalous circumstances flow more plentifully than the East River on this here island and earning the title of scandal in Manhattan requires a little more of a punch.