|L-R: Robert Yacko and Rita Rudner in TWO'S A CROWD. Photo by Carol Rosergg.|
Rita Rudner is a comedic icon. A frequent guest on Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show, she has starred in several HBO specials including Rita Rudner’s One Night Stand, Born to Be Mild, and Married Without Children, in Rita Rudner: Live from Las Vegas on PBS, and in Rita Rudner: A Tale of Two Dresses on Amazon Prime. She has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York; at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles; and at the MGM Grand, Harrah’s, and the Venetian in Las Vegas. In fact she holds the record for the longest running solo comedy show in the history of Las Vegas.
Now she has returned to the stage in New York City, starring in Two’s a Crowd at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan. Ms Rudner co-wrote the light-hearted two-act musical comedy with her husband, Martin Bergman, who also directs the play.
Given Ms Rudner’s resume, I was anticipating enjoying a cheerful romp of a play and eventually I was rewarded. But it took much longer than I had expected and required a bit of patience on my part. I found the play’s first act to be derivative and predictable and I must admit to having been disappointed.
The play begins with Wendy (Rita Rudner) and Tom (Robert Yacko) being forced to share a room in a Las Vegas hotel as a result of a computer glitch that resulted in the hotel’s overbooking its rooms. Wendy and Tom couldn’t be more different. She is as uptight as a woman can be and is only in Las Vegas on her own in an attempt to decide whether or not to leave her husband, Gus (Brian Lohmann), in light of her recent discovery of his infidelity. Tom, in sharp contrast, is free-wheeling and spontaneous and is in Las Vegas to compete in the World Series of Poker. Which means, of course, that since they have absolutely nothing in common, Wendy and Tom are sure to end up in bed together. They do. And there’s’ your first act.
And then the second act opened and I actually felt as if I was watching an altogether different show. Gus unexpectedly appears and it is no longer quite so obvious what to expect. All four of the play’s actors – Ms Rudner, Robert Yacko, Kelly Holden Bashar, and Brian Lohmann – express an exuberance that I found largely lacking in the first act. Even the music of the second act struck me as far more creative and entertaining than the tunes in the first.
Both Rita Rudner and Robert Yacko were fully accomplished in their respective roles. But I was surprised and delighted to find that the two supporting actors - Kelly Holden Bashar and Brian Lohmann – were even more entertaining than the two stars. Ms Bashar plays two very different roles: she is both Louise, VP of Hotel Operations, and Lili, a hotel housekeeper – and she is absolutely terrific in both. And I thought that her rendition of Lili’s Lament was a real star turn.
Brian Loehmann plays three different roles and handles them all with great aplomb. In addition to being Wendy’s husband, Gus, he is Joe, a room service waiter, and another unexpected hotel guest. And his rendition of Fix It All was, like Lili’s Lament, a real show stopper.
So the bottom line is this: even if you’re tempted to leave after the first act, don’t do it. Stick it out and you’ll ultimately be rewarded by a very entertaining show.