Corrections or additions?

This review by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the October 15,

2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

In New York: `The Thing About Men’

Billed as a "musical comedy affair," "The

Thing About Men" is a musical based on a 1988 German film released

in the U.S. as "Men." The show’s book and lyric writer Joe

DiPietro is again collaborating with "I Love You, You’re Perfect,

Now Change" composer Jimmy Roberts. The theme is, if it’s good

for the goose it’s good for the gander, and that three in love can

be as happy as two.

A previous incarnation of this musical, also called "Men,"

played three years ago at the American Stage Company in Teaneck where

I first had the opportunity to see it. The thing about the show now

is that it’s better than it was. But is that good enough?

What DiPietro and Roberts don’t seem to have realized is that

Europeans

face and process marital infidelity a lot differently than do

Americans,

and that any humor or lesson derived from such situations has to be

reinvented to find its truth and reality. When philandering

advertising

man Tom (Marc Kudisch) discovers that the wife Lucy (Leah Hocking),

whom he has assumed is faithful, is having an affair, he takes it

rather hard. Although Tom has been recklessly and heedlessly fooling

around for years, most recently with his secretary, he simply cannot

tolerate the idea of his wife in someone else’s arms. The fact that

the "someone else" turns out to be Sebastian (Ron Bohmer)

— a Greenwich Village-type artist with long hair a la Fabio, who

hasn’t sold a painting in years — hurts his ego.

Tom’s desire to discover the identity of Lucy’s lover is so strong

that he takes an extended leave of absence from his job. He moves

out of his home and abruptly ends his affair with his secretary. After

trailing the lovers, Tom discovers that Sebastian’s female roommate

and principal rent-payer has left him high and dry. When Tom discovers

that Sebastian, who scrimps along as a hot dog vendor, needs a new

roommate with bucks, he comes to the rescue. Of course Sebastian

doesn’t

know who Tom is.

Tom wants to watch Sebastian up close and foil his romantic meetings

with Lucy. As Tom and Sebastian’s buddy-buddy relationship grows,

so does Tom’s inane and implausible plan to win Lucy back by changing

Sebastian into the ambitious, well-groomed man that he himself was

when Lucy met him. The "Pygmalion" thing again, but without

the wit, satire or sexy situations that give such European-styled

dalliances their appeal. For Americans, the amoral and immoral

behavior

of spouses doesn’t sit very well, especially when neither, as in this

case, seem the least bit dishonored or disconcerted by their actions.

In the show’s defense, the fast-paced antics devised

by director Mark Clements are never less than resourceful and always

accomplished with vim and vigor. The artful set design by Richard

Hoover that uses six panels for projections, some animated, is a

delight.

However, Roberts’ score, although competently supported by DiPietro’s

better lyrics, merely sounds like clusters of tonal notes all

rhythmically

discharged.

Marc Kudisch, who has previously impressed me on Broadway in

"Thoroughly

Modern Millie" and "Bells Are Ringing," has a great

baritone

voice and is one of the most virile and attractive musical theater

performers around. As the disconsolate but undefeatable Tom, Kudisch

is merely terrific, with and without the gorilla head he wears as

a disguise in the musical’s funniest scene. Leah Hocking is taking

a big step up after "Dance of the Vampires." As the

affair-consumed

Lucy, she brings verve and a warm edge to the chaotic proceedings.

Her best line, when asked by Tom if her lover is good in bed: "Who

has an affair with someone who isn’t good in bed?"

The supporting performances by Daniel Reichard and Jennifer Simard,

who appear throughout as various critics, commentators, and other

whimsically prescribed characters, are purposefully and amusingly

engaged. Two stars. You won’t feel cheated.

— Simon Saltzman

The Thing About Men, Promenade Theater, 2162 Broadway

at 76th Street, New York. $45 to $65. Tele-Charge, 800-432-7250 or

212-239-6200.


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