Off-Broadway Theater Review: EAGER TO LOSE (Ars Nova)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on October 22, 2013

in Theater-New York

EAGER FOR MORE

A farcical, semi-interactive burlesque fairytale – complete with girls in g-strings and tassels, a pun-spewing, corny joke-telling MC, a Jazz combo, and a working bar inside the house – Eager to Lose is a delight from beginning to end. And did I mention that most of the dialogue is in Shakespearian-esque verse? One line comes to mind, uttered towards the end, which goes something like this: “Even if you thought our show was shitty/at least you got to see some titty.”

Tansy in in Ars Nova's production of "Eager to Lose."This is a collaborative effort created by Matthew-Lee Erlbach, co-directors Wes Granton and Portia Krieger, and “burlesque sensation” Tansy. The setting is a club called the Tim Tam Room and the audience enters to a performance already in progress – the band is playing (an outstanding quartet with Ben Arons on drums, Chris Bastian on bass, Danny Jonokuchi on trumpet, and musical director Cody Owen Stine on piano) and the girls are dancing. The place has a cabaret feel. In the script it’s described as having “a sexy lounge atmosphere….with a 1950s/60s mod edge married to something more contemporary” – a concept beautifully realized by scenic designer Mark Erbaugh and lighting designer Brian Tovar; the magnificent costumes are by Tilly Grimes.

At the appointed time begins the performance proper, with MC (John Behlmann) inviting audience members to drink and make noise for the strippers. He introduces four in succession, with each one performing a number: Angie Pontani (as herself), Trixie (Stacey Yen), Glinda (Emily Walton), and Tansy (as, well, Tansy). At this point I feared the whole show was going to be just a kind of kitschy / ironic / hipster-Stacey Yen, Emily Walton and Tansy in Ars Nova's production of "Eager to Lose."ish take on old-fashioned burlesque. But to my great relief, after Tansy finishes her dance, the drama starts.

Tansy, star and owner of the Tim Tam Room, announces that this is her last show, at the end of which she will hand the club over to either Trixie or Glinda, she hasn’t decided which yet. The reason? Tansy is leaving on a solo burlesque world tour financed by David Schwimmer, who is in love with her. (Mr. Schwimmer, obviously, is not actually in Eager to Lose.) There’s a glitch however. Tansy likes Schwimmer – he’s rich and famous and can give her everything she wants – but she’s secretly in love with penniless MC.

Stacey Yen & Emily Walton in Ars Nova's production of "Eager to Lose."What follows is an intricate maze of misunderstood and misdirected love letters, intrigue, confusion, disguises, and poisoned champagne, all of which make for a riveting, fantastic, warm and funny entertainment. And although experienced theatergoers will likely be able see early on where the show is going, watching it unfold – with game performers delivering renditions that sparkle in a magical world that is sexy and light – is nevertheless a great deal of fun. In fact the show’s predictability is even comforting in a way, as it allows one to experience a controlled level of emotional turmoil while knowing that what awaits at the end is not an abyss but a safe and happy place; sometimes this is a positive thing.

Richard Saudek & Tansy in Ars Nova's production of "Eager to Lose."Of the many terrific elements in Eager to Lose the one that stands out most is Richard Saudek’s mind-blowing mime work as Peeps, the nearly mute janitor at the Tim Tam Room. Mr. Saudek’s rendition – the plasticity and precision of his contortions, his silent storytelling inventions, his facial expressions, his incorporation of magic tricks – is nothing short of brilliant. Besides his scenes with other characters, Peeps is given one solo number and he is captivating. If Mr. Saudek ever develops an entire show around a silent personage of his, whether one with his Peeps character or not, I will be first in line.

Tansy & John Behlmann in Ars Nova's production of "Eager to Lose."photos by Marielle Solan

Eager to Lose
Ars Nova, 511 West 54th Street
scheduled to end on November 2, 2013
EXTENDED to November 9, 2013
for tickets, call 212 489 9800 or visit http://arsnovanyc.com/

{ 1 comment }

Bruno October 23, 2013 at 6:06 am

Bravo!!! Bravo!!!! Definitely a MUST SEE!!!!
Had me in stitches.

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