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Paulanne Simmons

"Becoming Adele" Comes Close But No Cigar

"Becoming Adele"

"Becoming Adele"
Directed by Victor Maog
Presented by Gotham Stage Company
The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row
420 West 42 St. between 9th and 10th avenues
Opened Dec. 15, 2006
Mon. thru Sat. 8 p.m., matinees Sat. 2 p.m.
$35-$45 (212) 279-4200
Closes Jan. 6, 2006
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Dec. 28, 2006

All of the action in Eric Houston's new play, "Becoming Adele," takes place on the rooftop of Adele Scabaglio's Manhattan apartment. The roof is her refuge and her stage. It is here that she comes to share her anxieties and dreams with the audience.

At the beginning of the play, Adele (Kimberly Stern), dressed in a frumpy sweater and sneakers, arrives on the rooftop and tells us that not too long ago she married a man named Doogie and nicknamed "Scumbag." He was admittedly "the biggest jerk in high school," and the first time he asked her for a date it was to hang out in front of a Burger King. But from this inauspicious beginning, he went form "kind of a jerk" to "kind of a friend" to "more than a friend."

The reason Adele gets involved with such a loser is clear from the very beginning. Adele doesn't think very much of herself, and Doogie is the only one who has shown even the slightest interest in her. The rest of the hour and a half monologue is devoted to Adele's slow awakening. She is indeed in the act of ‘becoming."

Stern's performance, under the direction of Victor Maog, is beyond a doubt brilliant. She is the loud-mouthed outer borough Italian par excellence. She is at home on the rooftop like a drab New York City pigeon taking a few moments rest on a busy day (Antje Ellermann is the set designer).

Adele's spunk, her endurance, her sense of humor are certainly endearing. But the problem is that it doesn't take too long before you get the feeling you've seen this play before, or something very much like it.

The good natured, not too attractive female is a character that has been so well explored it's hard to imagine what more can be said about this perennial stereotype. At this point, whether we're asked to laugh with her or at her doesn't much matter.

Houston has infused his play with more than a few bright and funny observations. He definitely has a gift for one-liners. Adele describes a waiter who "looks like Gandhi on Slim-Fast." She claims to have a relationship with God but says, "Right now we're not on speaking terms." Her adventures in a Chinese restaurant lead to the observation, "There's no way two sticks are coming between me and my dinner." But an hour and a half of this?

If Houston had given Stern a few other interesting characters to deal with, characters who are funny or bright or poignant on their own and not just adjuncts to Adele's personal drama, "Becoming Adele" might have been more compelling. As it is, despite a few high points, for much of this play while the young lady was becoming Adele this reviewer was becoming sleepy.

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