Chicago Theater Review: WE THREE LIZAS (Steppenwolf)

by Lawrence Bommer on December 3, 2012

in Theater-Chicago

A TASTY POTPOURRI PASTICHE IS MORE PASTRY THAN PORRIDGE

Billed as “a holiday bender” (as in gender), About Face Theatre’s 90-minute confection includes a 45-minute “cocktail hour” pre-show with guest performers warming up the crowd at the Steppenwolf Garage. Except that there’s already more Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of About Face Theatre’s WE THREE LIZAS at Steppenwolf Chicagoheat than light in this lavender musical version of A Christmas Carol. A  drag delight whose heart has eaten its brain, this colorful Christmas chestnut features catchy songs by Scott Bradley and Alan Schmuckler, the muddled book and serviceable lyrics (also by Bradley) notwithstanding.

The setting is a T.V. spectacular hosted by the monumentally messed-up Conrad Ticklebottom (Scott Duff), a prominent designer of mauve-colored boxes (they hold out hope as long as they’re never opened). Alas, the House of Conrad, his business empire, like Conrad’s looks and sex life, is in decline. Desperate to reclaim his faded glory, Conrad orders his faithful associate Reggie (Dana Tretta) to steal a book of spells from Mystique, the Great Queen of Holiday Wishes (Sean Blake), so that he may restore his trinity of power—youth, beauty and wealth.

Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of About Face Theatre’s WE THREE LIZAS at Steppenwolf ChicagoBut, like Scrooge and his three Spirits, these three wishes come with conditions: Conrad must experience—or endure—therapeutic encounters with “three Lizas”—Mystique (who’s much closer to Diana Ross); Liza Then (Danielle Plisz), suggesting the transience of youth and partnered by Bob Fosse “twinks” (Sean Michael Hunt and Arturo Soria); and Liza Now (Bradley), testifying to constant vigilance over weight control. Sample of the fare: In a mock trial as strange as anything in Lewis Carroll, Conrad must prove that he has “the balls for beauty.”

Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of About Face Theatre’s WE THREE LIZAS at Steppenwolf ChicagoBy show’s end Conrad has endured enough vignettes from his past to know that his dreams came true while he foolishly looked elsewhere: He donates all his designs and royalties to Reggie, who has broken from the purple pattern to create multi-hued bric-a-brac. (Well, the “kinky boots” market was clearly taken.)

It’s not clear what Conrad’s crisis was, let alone how this peppy finale (a raucous “Give It A Christmas Goose”) fits the bill. But then this hodgepodge of Dickens and Frank Capra all but demands an alcoholic accompaniment. Scott Ferguson’s piledriving staging serves the silliness by never slowing down enough to let any implausibility sink in. Several songs, especially Liza Now’s richly wrought “Dreams Slip Through,” can hold their own even out of context. The cast, particularly Plisz’s perfect replica of a feisty Minelli in the early 70’s and Tretta as the stalwart Reggie, prove more captivating than their characters.

Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of About Face Theatre’s WE THREE LIZAS at Steppenwolf Chicago

photos by Michael Brosilow

We Three Lizas
About Face Theatre at Steppenwolf Garage
scheduled to end on December 23, 2012
for tickets call 312-335-1650 or http://www.steppenwolf.org

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit http://www.TheatreinChicago.com

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