What happens in Vegas… apparently ends up on the New York stage! Two’s A Crowd, a musical comedy which was in development at The Laguna Playhouse in California last year, features a book by actor/comedian Rita Rudner and writer/producer Martin Bergman, her husband and frequent creative collaborator. Rudner’s award-winning, idiosyncratic style of comedy– complete with her patented smartly sarcastic observations of pop culture and human nature– is showcased to the max in Two’s A Crowd, which Bergman also directed. The show features music and lyrics by Jason Feddy. It’s a perfect vehicle for the gifted Rutner, especially when she’s expertly paired with singer/actor Robert Yacko as her inadvertent Vegas playmate. Two’s A Crowd is now making its New York City debut at Manhattan’s 59E59 Theaters.
We meet our two characters, Wendy Solomon (Rudner) and Tom McManus (Yacko), as they introduce themselves via the opening number: a parallel duet of sorts named “Two’s A Crowd”. Wendy, a high-end wedding planner, has run away to the “Entertainment Capital of the World” for some innocent retail therapy after learning of her husband Gus’ infidelity: “♫ I can’t wait to go shopping in the Aria Mall! ♫”. Tom, an electrician, is in Sin City for a poker tournament: “♫ I can’t wait to get lost in the casino hall! ♫” Through a computer mistake, the pair find themselves booked at the same room at their hotel. The clueless hotel staff cannot offer them a solution– other than bringing them a lousy cot. Thus, this comedy of travel errors kicks off, beginning with Wendy and Tom having to explain the bizarre situation to the East European maid Lili (Kelly Holden Bashar): “We’re not having an affair. We’re just sharing a room!” The overly-mannered, priggish Wendy and the blunt-spoken, gruff Tom immediately become a match made in… well, it’s not exactly Heaven or even Cleveland. The two waste no time in firing machine-gun style rounds of insults at each other:
Tom: You look like the sort of woman who’d watch the Travel Channel.
Wendy: What does that mean?
Wendy, however, knows how to throw it right back to him, with bonus casino chips to spare: “Listen, Jethro, I realize you have plenty of time on your hands while you wait for Habit for Humanity to build you a home, but there are people in the world, like me, with possessions and soap, who have responsibilities and timetables!” Gradually, the hot desert sun begins to thaw the icy vibe between these accidental tourists. Rudner’s Wendy doesn’t even change the sanctimonious expression on her face for most of Act 1, even when performing a solo song-and-dance number about the eternal differences between boys and girls, or joining the rest of the cast for an impromptu country western-style number named “Live A Little” (sort of an abbreviated version of The Band’s 1968 “The Weight”) with deadpan disinterest. We finally get to see Wendy crack a smile in one pivotal scenario: a pivotal scenario which involves… champagne! As Wendy softens her rigid persona, Tom shows not to be as boorish and one-dimensional as his initial impression would have us believe. Keen audience members may be able to predict where Two’s A Crowd is going. Will they or won’t they? While we wait to find out, there are MANY surprises in this delightful show. Two’s A Crowd is always funny, but the show isn’t afraid to go “over-the-top” on occasion. This is Las Vegas, after all: a town which one character aptly describes as “an aneasthetic from reality”! Despite all the 2019 adornments which the characters covertly poke fun of (including texting, Skype, Uber, hashtags, Clouds, apps, and… kombutcha!), it’s the timeless (Dare I say “traditional”?) spirit of the good old-fashioned bedroom farce that makes Two’s A Crowd so sinfully good.
Both Rudner and Yacko are very likeable and charismatic performers, even when their characters are shooting quills at each other in theaterical equivalent of a porcupine mating dance. Both actors are also fine singers, with Yacko in particular hitting some impressive notes. Rudner and Yacko also have the benefit of an equally talented supporting cast. Kelly Holden Bashar is a gem as the broadly comic maid Lili and the hotel manager Louise, getting to do a solo number and a duet with Rudner named “Las Fakus”, an offbeat “tribute” to Vegas. (“♫ Michael Jackson’s at The Stratosphere, though it’s years since his death; Spend an evening with Joan Rivers, but it’s a geezer in a dress…♫ “) Brian Lohman is equally fine playing mutliple characters, including Gus, Wendy’s husband, who reappears in Act 2. (We warned you there would be surprises!) Musician Jason Feddy, who wrote the songs, appears as a one-man Greek chorus as he offers some stripped-down country rock-style guitar and vocals from the wings. But perhaps Two’s A Crowd’s biggest asset is the book: Rudner and Bergman’s script doesn’t waste a single line of dialogue or overlook a chance for a humorous retort. Wendy and Tom may be sharing a room by mistake, but the couple’s inconvenience turns out to be the audience’s gain, as this Vegas-style “unromantic comedy” offers an a jackpot of laughs.
Two’s a Crowd is produced by Impro Theatre in association with Ritmar Productions, Inc. It continues at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison, New York City, through August 25. The run time is 1 hour and 50 minutes with one intermission. Single tickets are $25 – $70 ($49 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call the 59E59 Box Office at 646-892-7999 or visit here.
Photos by Carol Rosegg