Playwright/lyricist Christopher Durang and composer Peter Melnick have crafted a zany new musical, Adrift in Macao, a parody of romantic Hollywood film noirs from the 1940s that is an entertaining romp from the docks of exotic Macao to a nearby smoky nightclub. The musical directed by Sheryl Kaller with seductive style is a playful love letter to films that featured alluring women, mysterious men, shady characters, and a murky Orient atmosphere where nothing is what it seems.Although little more than a gleeful lampoon of old Hollywood films set in the mysterious orient, Adrift in Macao is a little musical with a big heart, and little is the operative word here. The plot is paper thin, the characters barely two dimensional, the songs modest pastiches, and there is even some dancing. The mini-musical fits beautifully onto the relatively small stage of 59E59 Theater and everyone involved has made the send-up appear larger than life. References to the classic film Casablanca are obvious, but there are nods to Alfred Hitchcock and winks at various archetypes as well.
Durang is a gifted playwright who can be hysterically funny, and he covered similar territory on Broadway with A History of the American Film almost 30 years ago. Off Broadway he has given us Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, Beyond Therapy, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, and Betty’s Summer Vacation. Well known for his often stinging satire, Adrift exists simply as a campy good time delivered with a wink and a firm tongue in cheek. Think Charles Busch, but not as edgy and you get the idea. Taking the bait, the cast slink, vamps, and sing their hearts out with clever panache.
The leads, Lureena and Mitch are played with easy confidence by Rachel de Benedet and Alan Campbell, repectively. Lureena is a blond chanteuse just off the boat, who secures a job at Rick Shaw’s nightclub. Mitch is an American with a chip on his shoulder running from the F.B.I. Rick is played with suave detachment by Will Swenson. The stars of the evening, however, are Michele Ragusa as Corinna, an opium addicted singer and rival for Rick’s attentions, and Orville Mendoza as Tempura, an oriental who runs Rick’s club. The two turn in virtuoso comic performances that almost steal the show. Playing several minor roles are Jonathan Rayson and Elisa Van Duyne, who turn in excellent support.
Melnick’s music is easy and fun covering several genres while blending wonderfully with the silly story. The lyrics are trite but amusing, and the wonderful cast works overtime to hit the bull’s eye with impeccable timing.
The staging is colorful and vibrant like the spirited performances. There is a passion from the creative team that transcends the evening and the ensemble of seven actors up the ante by delivering simply amazing work.
What the musical lacks in depth, it more than makes up for in style. The evening may not linger in your mind, but it will surely tickle your funny bone, and if you are crazy about old films, Adrift in Macao is a tasty treat that’s sure to keep you smiling. Mr. Durang said, “Peter Melnik and I intended the musical as an ‘entertainment’ written in a good mood.” Bravo guys, mission accomplished!
gordin & christiano
Originally Published in Dan's Papers
The New York premiere of Adrift in Macao presented by Primary Stages opened at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues on February 13, 2007 and Closes on March 4, 2007. Tickets may be purchased by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200, online at www.ticketcentral.com, or in person at the box office.