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A CurtainUp Review

Bobbi Boland
By Barbara Mehlman

Bobbi Boland isn't a very good play, but it could have been. The main character (Nancy Hasty) is very interesting, the acting is excellent, and the set and direction are professional. As it stands, however, the story line is so muddled, with so many elements that go begging for development, that you're distracted from what I think is the main theme: the eponymous Bobbi's fear of life that makes her rigidly adhere to her narrow 1947 world while the rest of the world spins on by, even if it means losing her husband, Roger (Gregg Henry).

In that crucial year 1947 of her life, Bobbi won the Miss Florida beauty contest and became frozen in time. When we meet her, 20 years later, the be-gowned and be-gloved pageant queen whirls into her white-carpeted, sunken living room, à la Loretta Young, and insinuates herself across the floor, barely touching ground.

She is conducting a charm school lesson for 13-year-old Susan, showing her how to walk, wave, sit, smile, and be, well, charming. But it's now 1967 and the world had changed. There have been an assassination, campus riots, ghetto riots, belly buttons, go-go boots, and skirts so short you didn't dare bend over. But inside Bobbi's house we are in a time warp.

Then destruction walks into Bobi's genteel and proper life as the wife of a football hero. That destruction is in the form of a new trophy wife belonging to Roger's boss, George (David Little). Young enough to be George's granddaughter, Kim (Tanya Clarke) is Twiggy-built, and very Mod. And this is where Bobbi Boland gets all muddled.

Kim is very young, very immature, but very much part of the '60s New World Order. She and George smooch on the Boland's couch, hold hands, and appear to be true lovers, until one day Kim comes to the house with a bruise on her cheek. We're led to believe that George hit her, though the issue is never pursued. Is George a wife-beater? We never find out.

Then there's Sam (Byron Loyd). He is Bobbi's ubiquitous unmarried friend, a neighbor, haberdasher, and artistic director of a theater group with which Bobbi sometimes performs with. Sam is always s in Bobbi's house but we never hry know his place in her life? Is he gay? Is he secretly in love with Bobbi? What is he doing in this play?

And finally there's Bobbi's marriage. Throughout the whole first act, the couple is lovey-dovey, kissy-face, with not so much as a hint that there's trouble in Paradise -- until things start falling apart. But with the troubled marriage of Kim and George given equal weight you don't know where to look first. Both main plot and subplot are unclear.

Yes, this could have been a good play because despite its 1967 time frame it strikes responsive chords in our high-tech world. I've met the likes of Bobbi today at the beauty parlor. Trophy wives are still a male status symbol, and we all know a Sam.

Hasty is excellent as her own heroine but she needs to take her script back into a workshop and rethink it in order to come out with a tighter, more cohesive play.

By Nancy Hasty
Directed by Evan Bergman
With Nancy Hasty as Bobbi Boland; Gregg Henry as Roger Boland; Byron Loyd as Sam; David Little as George; Tanya Clarke as Kim.<
Scenic design: John Farrell
Lighting Design: Steve Rust
Costume Design: Jill Kliber
At the Arclight Theatre, 152 W. 71 St.(Broadway/Columbus Ave. )279-4200
Performances: Monday, and Wednesday through Saturday at 8PM, Sunday at 7PM; matinee Saturday at 3PM. -- $40. C
Running time: 2 hours, one intermission
Opened March 1, 2001.
Reviewed by Barbara K. Mehlman based on February 26, 2001 performance

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