Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
Candy & Dorothy
The odd pair Mr. Johnston has conjured up for his play is based on two real people -- Candy Darling, the drag queen and Andy Warhol superstar born in Massepequa, Long Island 1944 (or, according to some records, 1946) and . Dorothy Day (1897 -1980), the social activist and co-founder of The Catholic Worker. Both lived in the East Village during the 1970s and might well have passed each other in the street, though only someone as inventive as Johnston could have devised a way for them to actually get to know each other. Johnston sets their imaginary and unlikely coupling far from the streets of the East Village -- at least at the beginning-- in that netherworld where the dead must earn their angel wings or, if warranted, achieve sainthood. Anyone who saw Christopher Durang's hilariously entertaining Miss Witherspoon (my review) earlier in the season will realize that Candy & Dorothy is probably more kin to that comic fantasy than the slob and neatnick in Neil Simon's more earthbound comedy. Actually, forget the comparisons. This show not an also ran Simon or Durang, but stands on its own.
While Vince Gatton's flamboyant Candy tends to dominate the ninety minutes, this is not just a drag queen act extended and expanded with a supporting cast. For one thing Gatton, knows how to do vulnerable and touching every bit as well as stand-up comedy and Sloane Shelton is his (her?) feisty and funny equal as Dorothy Day. There's also the plot line which accommodates both riotous humor as well as a genuine story of hope and redemption that allows Candy and Dorothy to leave the after life long enough to straighten out the messed-up life of a current East Village dweller named Tamara (Nell Gwynn, another standout performer, whose character was undoubtedly named with Day's daughter Tamar Hennessey in mind).
The way Johnston sets things up so that Candy and Dorothy meet each other as they never did in the East Village is to put a disembodied Voice (Brian Fuqua) in charge of who will be dubbed angel or saint, and how. For Candy that means the Voice has directed her to spend the six years since her death as a caseworker for new arrivals. Her latest and crucial client is none other than Dorothy whom she must put through some tests which in turn will determine her being sainted).
Dorothy is of course none too happy about her association with Candy or the tests -- one of which has them co-hosting a cooking show. Dorothy reluctantly participates in this over-the-top scene but it isn't long before she persuades the Voice to let her and Candy perform the rehabilitative miracle that gives the piece its heft as a substantive play. That miracle or "test" involves the floundering, drug-addicted, sexually promiscuous Tamara who is understandably disturbed to have these ghostly figures invading her apartment.
And so Dorothy, with Candy at her side, sets about turning around Tamara's dissolute life. Her meddling includes interrupting a one-night stand Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune with a bartender/musician (an endearing Amir Arison who has you rooting for sexual attraction to bloosom into love), cleaning up Tamara's sloppy apartment and teaching her to protest effectively for the contract she and other city librarians have worked without for months. And as a bonus miracle, the angel and saint to be, develop a rapport, as evidenced by several shared cups of coffee, a wonderful scene in which Dorothy submits to Candy giving her a quick cosmetic makeover, and a quite moving park bench encounter.
Rober Monaco's uncluttered scenic design abets the segues between the after life and Tamara's more realistic world. Jessica Jahn's outfits for all --and especially for Gatton's Candy-- couldn't be more on the mark. Kevin Newbury balances the shifts between the stand-up comedy flavored and more poignant scene with a juggler's finesse.
The playwright provides enough background about his characters to require no prior knowledge of the audience. However, if you Google Candy Darling and Dorothy Day, you'll find plenty of interesting additional information about them. As mentioned earlier, Mr. Newbury is soliciting support for a transfer production, but don't count on it but try to catch Candy & Dorothy while it's still at the Mint Space.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
>6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.