A CONVERSATION WITH EDITH HEAD by Susan Claassen and Paddy Calistro – El Portal Theater – Los Angeles (North Hollywood) Theater Review

by Tony Frankel on October 9, 2010

in Theater-Los Angeles

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INSIDE EDITH’S HEAD

The celebrated film costume designer Edith Head is receiving a Valentine at the El Portal. No other celebrity could wish more than what actress (and co-author with biographer Paddy Calistro) Susan Claassen has done: a spot-on, almost uncanny impersonation of a cult figure (Head won 8 Oscars for design) that has us walk down memory lane in lieu of a dramatization of a life. This device means that the show never really achieves true theatricality; but, then again, it never set out to do that. It is A diverting and amusing (if occasionally draggy) Conversation With Edith Head.

There is a host where we are gathered (Edith’s office?) named Stuart, who either really is or pretends to be a huge Edith Head fan. Claassen knows her subject matter back and forth, as she can answer questions from 3 x 5 cards that the audience has filled out before the show. It seems Stuart is there to ask any questions we may have missed. The most (and only!) dramatic moment came when Edith went off on some rant and Stuart reminded her that she was talking about Sunset Boulevard. Edith sheepishly retains her poise and looks embarrassed, hinting that she may have – what? – Alzheimer’s?

This show must have been a hit with the retirement community of Tucson, where Claassen came up with the idea nine years ago. As Edith, she keeps the device going of forgetting words like “flock” or “molt” and the audience happily chimes in with the misplaced word.

As for a juicy memoir, forget it: she’s not really wicked enough and she says that she doesn’t want to dish any dirt about celebrities, although she will pick on an audience member for not wearing the appropriate garb.

None of this really matters. This show will fit the bill with retirees, Edith Head fans, and Hollywood devotees. For crying out loud, the crowd gasped to learn that Gloria Swanson had size 2 ½ shoes! Your mom will love this.

tonyfrankel @ stageandcinema.com

scheduled to close October 24 at time of publication
for tickets, visit http://edithhead.biz/html/hollywood_2010.html

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