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NY Theater Reviews

Ph: Carol Rosegg

DEALT A BAD HAND

By BRIAN SCOTT LIPTON

Rita Rudner's talents are done a disservice by the show’s ramshackle construction.

Crowds with an affinity for the brilliant comedienne Rita Rudner are the most likely to savor Two’s a Crowd, the daffy new concoction created by Rudner and her husband, Hollywood director Martin Bergman, now at 59E59 Theaters. However, most audiences will still laugh a bit at the proceedings – perhaps even more than they want to – but be ultimately frustrated by the show’s ramshackle construction.

Indeed, the crowd isn’t even on stage (there are only four admittedly talented actors in the cast), but in the heads of Rudner, Bergman and composer-lyricist Jason Feddy, who can’t make up their minds what show they want to write. Basically, it’s a live-action sitcom about Wendy (Rudner), an uptight, 60-something wedding planner who escapes to Las Vegas to decide whether to forgive her cheating husband and who is forced (rather unbelievably) to share her room with gruff widower Tom (a strong-voiced Robert Yacko, trying to make the most of a two-dimensional character).

One wishes the creators had stuck simply to that format, as the pair’s interplay can be sometimes quite touching and often very funny (especially when Rudner is putting down what she perceives as Tom’s classlessness). And even when Rudner is delivering lines (to Tom or, oddly enough, the audience) that seem to come straight from one of her stand-up routines, her skill with this kind of observational humor is hard to resist.

But then there are the songs. It’s not that Feddy (who also delivers a few from the sidelines as sort of a commentary) is untalented; they have a decent country-music feel and the lyrics are satisfactory. But Bergman stages them without any finesse. Having the pair sit on the bed and wax philosophical about their life journey is slightly strange. Having Rudner dance and prance about the room like a former chorus girl (despite still being quite limber) is really awkward. And the decision to give character songs to such minor players as hotel executive Louise and chambermaid Lulu (both portrayed smartly by Kelly Holden Bashar) and Wendy’s estranged husband Gus (Brian Lohmann, who practically steals one scene in a different role) is simply misguided.

In the end, Two’s a Crowd (which takes place at a poker tournament) deals its headliner a sub-par hand, when this one-of-a-kind performer deserves something that could deliver a full house night after night.