Los Angeles Theater Review: WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN (Musical Theatre Guild)

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by Tony Frankel on November 16, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles


Given the Madrid setting, Hispano characters, and Latin-inspired score, it’s possible that the musicalized version of Pedro Almodóvar’s film will one day make the rounds in regional theaters and high schools. But for now, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown—a 2010 Broadway flop that was retooled for clarity’s sake in London in 2015—will be relegated to the “rarely produced” catalog, making it a perfect choice for Musical Theatre Guild and its one-night-only concert-staged version.

The screwball plot centers around Pepa, an actress and voice-over artist who is unceremoniously dumped by her gone-rogue flame, and finds herself embroiled in a tangled plot involving his revengeful, nutty spouse (fresh from the funny farm), his wife’s female lawyer, his shy son, the son’s overbearing fiancée, and a manic, self-obsessed fashion model friend who’s discovered she’s sleeping with an international terrorist. That’s a lotta plot.

Director Richard Israel has all the right instincts here, but for staging a major production, not a concert. Along with his manic movement (loved the rolling chairs as taxis) there were some uneven cast members with a few forced portrayals. And then there’s the silly unnecessary attempts at accents which—along with malfunctioning microphones—garbled David Yazbek’s lyrics (one of the show’s better assets despite a lack of good catches). Yazbek’s music, performed beautifully by Corey Hirsch’s visible six-member band, has a distinctly Spanish flavor with its mambo rhythms and acute dynamism that robustly projects the characters’ fiery distress.

But there’s a problem: The songs don’t stick. Especially those for Pepa (a wonderfully striking and game Kim Huber, whose accent did work well), which seem labored and mundane. And when tunes soared, we either had those mic problems (ruining the amazing Nikka Graff Lanzarone’s “Model Behavior,” the best song in the show) or vocal issues (Eileen Barnett does well on “Invisible,” but lacked strength).

Steve Limones sounded awesome, but he’s a character-free one-man Greek Chorus in the guise of a likable taxi driver (one of many issues in Jeffrey Lane’s book, which needed to be WAY more dangerous). Likewise singing swell, Robert Yacko as the philandering cad doesn’t have one good song or scene—the show comes to a grinding halt when his character’s on stage.

Sure, the book and songs are problematic, but none of that would have mattered had this production not also been too often on the verge of its own nervous breakdown.

photos by Alan Weston

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Musical Theatre Guild
Alex Theatre, 216 Brand Blvd. in Glendale
played Sunday, November 12, 2017
for future shows, call 818.243.2539
or visit MTG

{ 1 comment }

Joely Pisher November 16, 2017 at 6:08 pm

Production problems at MTG readings tend to be the norm rather than the exception. MTG readings are a “labor of love” but a bit more professionalism shouldn’t be too much to ask for. Maybe MTG can start using the fantastic production talent from the highly polished Reiner Reading Series at Musical Theatre West?

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