Mimi Le Duck
nytheatre.com review by Pamela Butler
August 15, 2004
This delightful musical adventure of 44-year-old Miriam Sanders (Annie Golden), a Mormon housewife from Ketchum, Idaho, takes us to Paris, France (not Paris, Texas). The ghost of Ernest Hemmingway (Allan Fitzpatrick) persuades the guileless Miriam to reinvent herself, give up pastels, and find her flash. Miriam has always painted—ducks. She churns out fowl portraits for the likes of the Home Shopping Network. Restless for change, she paints ducks of a different—well—“color” might not exactly cover it. Cashing in her nest egg, she flies the coop and the story flowers.
Miriam, voicing sweet, almost childlike naivet, ultimately finds the strength of her womanly resolve in a run-down cabaret in Paris, where Hemingway once stayed. Her loving husband Peter (Bryan Scott Johnson) extolling the virtues of the good life, radiates guilt, terror and spinelessness, but goes to bring her home.
The denizens of the place Miriam finds herself make up the rest of the bohemian cast. An able French oyster shucker, Claude (Robert Dusold) yearns for change and dreams his life is a mystery he wants to solve. The specters of his ancestors haunt him, filling his head with doubt. His hilarious argument with them foretells his future (in the guise of his dream persona, Claude might prefer black briefs). Mme. Vallet, the proprietress (Nada Rowand), Ziggy, an old French war veteran (Donald Grody), Clay, the angry sculptress (Kristine Zbornik), and her Gypsy lover (Louis Tucci), all participate in Miriam’s transformation and their own. All are perfectly cast and rise to the material.
The play moves along at a brisk pace, Act I providing a crisp, clean set up for Act II. The second act gets off to a bumpy start and never quite gains solid footing. Opening night jitters might be the bug. Of note is the love song Ziggy sings to Mme. Vallet, delivered with such quality and feeling, I was near tears.
Much drinking and plastic glass clinking somehow thud in the midst of the excellent musicianship of the trio behind the scenes. It is directed by Thomas Caruso, with musical direction by Chris Fenwick; accolades to Brian Feinstein, the composer, and Diana Hansen-Young, the bookwriter/lyricist of this quirky but sound work. Lighting design (Chris Dallos), sound design (Michael Creason) and costume design (Carol Brys) all add to the unity of the piece. A FringeNYC event to put near the top of your list!