I just saw the play Dirty Blond at Signature Theater. The show tells the story of Jo and Charlie, lovable misfit New Yorkers who meet cute while on pilgrimages to Mae West’s grave and develop a relationship. Oh, and it also gives a bio of Mae West through their eyes.
The play is a charmer, and quite a tour de force for Emily Skinner who plays both Jo and Mae West, Hugh Nees as Charlie and a variety of other characters, and J. Fred Shiffman as everyone else. It is a particular pleasure to see the three actors working as a particularly well-knit ensemble. Skinner is always a stand-out, and it is particularly pleasurable that this show, although not technically a musical, has enough songs to give the audience the pleasure of Skinner’s singing. Nees and Shiffman both have stellar moments in the show, and prove themselves adept song-and-dance men.
Jeremey Skidmore’s staging keeps things moving. But I did find myself getting squirmy by about minute 80 of the intermissionless 105 minute minute show. I attribute this in large part to the script. While I found the Mae West scenes interesting, frankly the story of Jo and Charlie ventures into territory that simply elicited tired sighs from me instead of any interest or empathy.
Also, for me the play is a bit of a victim of timing. Hmmm…. The courage and passion of a fabulous, self-invented figure inspires a troubled contemporary figure to have the courage to overcome their own challenges. Plus the vehicle gives a leading lady an opportunity to swan around in an epic, bravura performance. Having seen Looped about Tallulah Bankhead and Julie and Julia about Julia Child in the last few months, the play felt like déjà vu all over again.
But these quibbles shouldn’t be taken too seriously. The show is extremely entertaining, beautifully produced with wonderful performances. So see it before the run ends October 4th.