By: Isa Goldberg
Like “The Play that Goes Wrong,” “Stiff,” playing at TBG Theatre (312 West 36th St), is a comedy, about a murder mystery that runs amok. And yes, the set (Aaron Porter, scenic design) collapses. But in this case, that is because The Producer, Saul Solomon (Nicholas Greco), a mastermind of public relations, is also a cheap skate, and skimps on everything he can.
Such a producer may have been a bit ahead of his time in the 1950’s when this comedy is set, but anachronisms are employed freely here – particularly in the camp style of the performances. And the play within the play, is some sort of hillbilly tale dating from when hillbillies roamed. It plays like Tolstoy done very badly.
To create these iconic stage roles, the actor’s affect character voices that are broad stereotypes, and slapstick. As the Jewish producer, Nicholas Greco speaks with glowering nasality. And as The Actress, Vanessa VerKamp, Amandina Altomare evokes a range of classic voices – Betty Boop, and The Andrews Sisters, among them. Her Understudy (Jennifer Robbins), fortunately, possess the acting skill, of which VerKamp (read very camp) is so narcissistically oblivious.
In keeping with the style of a Marx Brothers farce, there are three master-minds of the show, within the show. Along with the sleazy producer, a highly neurotic Writer, played by Mitch Lerner, and a swashbuckling Director, Joshua Morgan. Their show is a romantic tragedy. Need one say more?
Written by Jeff Swearingen, who also plays The Actor, and the object of everyone’s loathing, “Stiff,” is a whacky, and truly fun-loving comedy. Director Andy Baldwin pulls of a fast–paced production adeptly.
But the point of this show is The Stiff, the theater critic for The New York Times. In this role, Robert Tunstall gives a speechless performance. He also never utters a word. Still, one hasn’t seen a physically comedic actor like that on the stage in New York for a long time. And to be that entertaining without uttering a word is amazing. But, as you will discover, when you see “Stiff,” through March 3rd only, you never know what will happen to you, when you get a good review. This one is worth it.
February 21- March 3, 2018
TBG Theatre 312 W. 36th St. New York, NY 10018
For Tickets Click Here