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Monday, November 17, 2008

Review- The Tender Trap (Retro Productions)

The Fab Marquee review by Peyton Wise.

Retro Productions’ The Tender Trap is an act of theatrical time travel. As we’ve seen in Delorean-based time travel, the journey can be uneven and the first moments discombobulating. But what a fascinating landscape awaits you.

True to their mission, this Retro production does not try to interpret the play for the twenty-first century, but imbues the entire evening with the sounds, sights and attitudes of the 1950s. The sounds, designed by Bobby McGinnis, consist of luscious renditions of popular songs with something to say about love and the pursuit of it. The sights include brightly colored clothes by Ben Philipp that ably depict character and era and a truly phenomenal set. Designed by Jack and Rebecca Cunningham, this detailed rendition of a 50s bachelor apartment not only incites farcical stage movement and defines the character of its inhabitant, but it’s a harmonious decor doo-wop. The pattern of the curtains is echoed in the rail and the couch pillows, the accent of the carpet is echoed in the ashtray, ad infinitum, although it’s subtle enough not to intrude on your attention.

Ric Sechrest as Charlie Reader and Casandera M. J. Lollar as Julie Gillis
photo credit: Kristen Vaughan
The attitudes include boundless optimism, can-do gee-whiz spirit and not a little sexism. The set-up hinges on the idea that career women, having spent the years their counterparts were getting married in career-building, are so marriage-hungry that they’ll aggressively chase any man who appears remotely single. While the women are sometimes witty, they are also the butt of quite a few jokes, both by the male characters and the play. However, if you can accept the attitudes as being of a specific time period-as well as the slight stylization created by that 50s spirit- there are a lot of laughs to be found.

First produced on Broadway in 1954, The Tender Trap is a classic sex comedy. Charlie (Ric Sechrest) is a salesman who finds himself far more in demand in New York City than he ever was back home. When his friend Joe (Jim Kilkenny) visits him to pursue a business scheme, he can’t believe the women pursuing Charlie. Particularly heartbreaking to our eyes is Sylvia, portrayed with elegance and charm by Elise Rovinsky. Despite her extraordinary blend of sophistication and wry human knowledge, she waits for Charlie to weary of playing the field, openly admitting that he’s simply her best hope for marriage. She develops a competition with a rapacious marriage-minded young assistant (Casandera M.J. Lollar).

Jim Kilkenny as Joe McCall and Ric Sechrest as Charlie Reader
photo credit: Kristen Vaughan

The ensuing action is very funny. C.K. Allen, as a jazz musician friend of Sylvia’s, has quite possibly the funniest five minutes on any stage in New York. Ms. Lollar appears to have a Lucille Ball hidden inside her ingénue, while Ms. Rovinsky’s wit and timing drive the screwball comedy. The plot does teeter a little when it depends on the chemistry Mr. Sechrest has with the ladies; as his affection for them seems interchangeable, the revelation of his true love is a surprise that tilts audience sympathy towards the jilted lady. Overall, however, The Tender Trap is a hilarious evening, one from 1954.

Retro Productions presents
Max Shulman & Robert Shaun Smith's
The Tender Trap
November 6-22, 2o08 (Mon-Wed-Sat @8pm; Sun @2pm)
The Spoon Theater

Tickets: $18.00 (TDF Vouchers Accepted); to purchase call 212-352-3101 or visit

The Spoon Theatre | 38 West 38th Street, 5th Fl | Manhattan.

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