★★★ | You Should Be So Lucky, Above The Stag

For their opening play of the new season, Above The Stag have chosen a madcap comedy from the pen of Charles Busch, a New York writer and drag artist, who also played the male lead in the original New York production of the play.

A modern day Cinderella story, the play concerns Chris, a shy and slightly eccentric electrologist who accidentally electrocutes and kills his customer, the elderly Mr Rosenberg, unexpectedly inheriting Rosenberg’s millions. This sets off a chain of crazy events, including appearing on a TV reality chat show, under the guidance of his fairy godfather Mr Rosenberg, who returns as a ghost to take care of his surrogate son, and make sure his wishes are carried out in the face of his vengeful daughter disputing the will.

Apart from one brief scene in the TV studio, the entire action takes place in the one room of Chris’s Greenwich Village apartment, a very clever and elaborate set by David Shields. Busch is a seasoned writer, his writing reminiscent of 1930s screwball comedies, and the laughs come thick and fast.

I had my reservations, though and these were much the same as those I had with last year’s Gay Naked Play, also directed by Andrew Beckett. Too much of it was played on one frenetic level, with a surfeit of mugging to the audience, and an energy level far in excess of what was needed in this small house. Chris Woodley’s Christopher started well, and in his first couple of scenes with Colin Appleby’s warmly gentle Mr Rosenberg, created a touching portrait of a slightly lost young man, but as events got more and more out of control, so too did his performance. Stacy Sobieski was on firmer ground as Christopher’s completely over the top drama queen sister, Polly, as was Ellen Vernieks as Rosenberg’s daughter, Lenore, but they too would benefit from reining things in occasionally, as could Lucas Livesy’s Walter.

The role of the TV host Wanda Wang is being shared by several actors. On the night I attended we had a nicely nuanced performance from Ishani Basu.

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Maybe the pacing will settle down a bit as the play gets further into its run. An entertaining evening none the less.