Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Tara Dairman's script for PB&J is as off-kilter as the explanation of how "penis" wound up being the secret ingredient in Millie & Lillie's Peanut Butter. This isn't a bad thing, as that explanation is quite funny. But it is implausible, and prone to extreme bits of camp, most notably from the horrible French accent of a prostitute turned "nurse," or from the bullish antics of a radio producer. Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing: Juliet O'Brien's lack of inhibition makes Cherie into a ditsy sex kitten. The show is a divisive split though for the "butter-side up, butter-side down" audience, as those not enthralled by the gleefully absurd work will probably end up hating the shallow, dick-based humor.

I fall a little into the latter camp because PB&J doesn't quite manage to satirize blind consumerism and blinder media coverage. When Dairman is on, with Dick Longfellow (David Gable) trying to work his way through an interview with a few fingers of brandy, it works. When the focus hits below the belt--and stays there--then it all gets a bit too cartoonish. It's odd, too, because Dairman draws parallels to the rape of Philomena in Ovid's Metamorphoses and hints at a deeper story of resentment between the sheltered, spoiled, girlish Lillie (Lisa Riegel), and the mannish, knowledgeable doer (Amy L. Smith). Instead, as Dick draws nearer to the truth, the story get stuck, more and more, on that titular peanut butter.

PB&J is well-paced, and director Cyndy A. Marion does a good job of stressing the double-takes, the running gags, and the exaggerated naiveté of the characters. Though some of the scenes seem artificially inflated (with Viagra?), those are preferable to the moments that simply fall short, or fail entirely to rise to the occasion. But hey, for all that the play goes too far (does his name have to be Dick? Longfellow?), I did laugh, quite a lot. Just goes to show you that maybe you can butter both ways.

No comments: