Sandy the Dandy and Charlie McGee: A Case Study in Harsh Realities
nytheatre.com review by Ryan Emmons
August 12, 2008
Sandy the Dandy & Charlie McGee is the most fun show I have seen in FringeNYC. Walking into the theatre and seeing the larger-than-life set made of painted cardboard (cleverly designed by Eric Southern) and the red cloth circus tent ceiling of The Deluxe at Spiegelworld, I knew I was in for a treat.
The show is the result of a collaboration between Mat Sanders and Guerrin Gardner. They also portray the title characters of the play and luckily their acting is as creative, entertaining and enjoyable as the script they have written for themselves. The play is an adventure that follows Sandy the Dandy, an actor with "dreams as big as his debts." Sandy befriends Charlie McGee, who serves as his very odd yet optimistic assistant. The two explore New York City from the Empire State Building to Central Park and fight their way through the theatre business (from nightmares about performing for celebrities to starring in a racist show). For Sandy, a job is a job, but he raises questions about how much of one's self a person must be willing to sacrifice in order to make it to the top.
Director Stephen Brackett should also be commended on creating a whimsical and silly world that is never too over-the-top. Ridiculous, yes, but nothing in the script or direction is there simply to be funny but rather because this is how these people are. It makes sense that Sandy's apartment has a nautical theme and that Sugarfoot and Buttershoes (Whit Baldwin and Jeffrey Cutaiar) are always around dressed head-to-toe in gold to sing, dance, or hold set pieces in place. And when things go wrong for Sandy or Charlie (particularly in their friendship) there is the potential for a heartbreaking moment.
Sanders is instantly likable as this vaudevillian style song and dance man. A charmer through and through, Sandy makes you feel like you are in a room full of friends and that everything is going to be alright. There are moments where he is a bit abusive towards Charlie, but he is good-natured enough that you still cannot hate him.
Gardner plays the seemingly helpless and innocent Charlie McGee, who turns out to be an expert on "USA Ladydolls." He is a bit clueless when it comes to living in the big city and does not understand why Sandy is upset that he is being paid in appletinis for appearing online as "Peachbottom." Gardner has expert comedic timing and understands what it means to play such a ridiculous part.
The true treasure of this show is the chemistry and generosity that exists between Sanders and Gardner. These are two talented, funny, and innovative artists who should continue to work together and create worlds that are subtlety reminiscent of our own but ridiculous enough that we can laugh at the injustice and unfairness of what it sometimes means to be human.