Michele Pawk! That's all you really need to know. Michele Pawk is in town (well, back in town -- she's from Butler), and she's starring in a one-woman show with the improbable title The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead, at City Theatre.
Me and Michele go back a long way ... I've decided not to let the fact that she doesn't know who I am stand in the way of our friendship. Early in her career, she appeared in several important off-Broadway and Broadway shows (and her gorgeous voice graces any number of the CDs in my collection). She won a Tony Award in 2003 for her performance in Hollywood Arms, the Carol Burnett autobiographical comedy/drama.
So Pawk's in town in this show, and I'm all set to love it, her and life in general.
Well ... I still love her, anyway.
In The Blonde, Pawk plays multiple characters who, through monologues delivered directly to the audience, tell the patchwork story of a scandal which rocks what appears to be a suburban neighborhood.
Something like this is just a big ol' slab of red meat for an actress, especially one of Pawk's ability, and she tears into this story and these various roles with tremendous force. Pawk's got at least eight different people in her and, from the looks of it, she and director Lou Jacob are calibrating her performance to sufficiently differentiate among the characters without coming across as either arbitrary or gimmicky.
And that's tremendously harder than it sounds, because Australian playwright Robert Hewett is the weakest link in this chain. I'm afraid these characters are filled with detail but no purpose; even though they exist in the same play, they don't feel like they're in the same world. And stylistically the play is all over the map. Hewett seems to think that adding random events to his script gives it verisimilitude, when it fact it just makes it artificial.
The only unifying element is that, no matter the monologue, Hewett has never met an easy sentiment he didn't like. There are some seriously squirmy moments when Hewett opts for greeting-card emotion rather than the real thing. This reaches its height (or depth, rather) at the end of the first act, when Pawk plays a little child who .... no, sorry, dear reader, I can't bring myself to relive it.
I'm assuming that a New York run must be on the menu -- you don't get someone of Pawk's talent and professional stature unless you're thinking of wider audiences. But I have to guess that parading this script in front of professionally jaded Manhattan theater-goers isn't necessarily going to have a happy ending.
And I plan to caution Michele personally, at the imaginary tea party she'll be attending at my house. It's the least I can do for such a dear friend.
The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead continues through May 30. City Theatre, 1300 Bingham St., South Side. 412-431-CITY or www.citytheatrecompany.org
- Michelle Pawk