“Curvy Widow” received an enthusiastic crowd response when I saw it at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick last week, and it has been announced that an off-Broadway production — with the same cast — will open at the Westside Theatre on Aug. 3 (after previews begin July 20).
I have to say, though, that I found myself immune to its charms.
Nancy Opel, Tony-nominated for “Urinetown,” stars in this musical comedy about a middle-aged woman, Bobby (based on “Curvy Widow” playwright Bobby Goldman), who tries to get on with her life after her husband Jim (played by Ken Land, one of six actors who handle a variety of roles) dies in the middle of the first song.
The music (by Drew Brody) is serviceable but bland, the jokes often crass and obvious. But what really sinks the play is Bobby’s flaming narcissism. Her move from uptown to downtown (in order to be with the “young and hip” instead of the “old and hipless”) is seen as a monumental achievement. Her friends Caroline, Joan and Heidi (played by Andrea Bianchi, Aisha de Haas and Elizabeth Ward Land, respectively) exist only to cater to her needs. It’s like “Sex in the City” — if Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda were there just to breathlessly await what Carrie is going to do next.
Jim’s ghost keeps hanging around, too, for no particular reason; he simply doesn’t seem to have anything better to do. Alan Muraoka plays the most unrealistic therapist ever, giving Bobby a “medical directive” to “get laid.”
Much of the humor comes from Bobby’s rocky quest to find love again. The last time she went on a date, a shrimp cocktail was $1.50, she moans. She suffers through the extreme indignities of the online dating process (where she posts under the name “Curvy Widow”) and the pathetic losers who constitute her parade of suitors.
“Single men my age are awful,” she says. “There’s a reason why they’re alone.”
Finally, though, she meets a real mensch, played by Christopher Shyer. But will it work out?
I won’t tell you, except to say that I found the ending puzzling and unsatisfying.
“Curvy Widow” runs at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick through May 21; visit georgestreetplayhouse.org.