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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THE LAST SMOKER IN AMERICA
at Westside Theatre

BLOWING SMOKE
By PETER FILICHIA

  Farah Alvin and Natalie Venetia Belcon/ Ph: Joan Marcus

Caution: This show could be hazardous to your theatergoing health.
 
Nevertheless, The Last Smoker in America librettist Bill Russell started out with a very good idea. Those who care to smoke cigarettes in this allegedly free democracy are finding fewer and fewer places where they can light up. The day will soon come, Russell reasons, when there will be a noisy machine over the door of every household that will ensure its inhabitants lose their Kools.
 
It’s already happened in this musical set in “tomorrow.” The sun isn’t coming out for Pam, whose husband Ernie, son Jimmy and especially nosy neighbor Phyllis want her to take off the metaphorical chains that her chain-smoking have put on her. They’re actually glad that the oval-shaped monitor (which vaguely resembles a couple of black lungs) loudly squeals on her each time she lights a match.
 
Still, while we might want to defend to the death Pam’s right to smoke, many of us would prefer that she stop smoking herself to death. We really can’t get behind a heroine who needs cigarettes like heroin.
 
But more importantly, if a writer wants to take a political stand on an issue that he deems important, he shouldn’t have it delivered by moronic characters. John Bolton, who was actually better than David Hyde Pierce when he subbed for him as Lieutenant Cioffi in Curtains, must play a middle-aged man who still believes his garage band will result in rock fame and fortune. Poor Bolton must deliver some pseudo-acid rock riffs that would have caused Henry Higgins to save his expression “Heavens, what a sound!” for Peter Melnick’s too-accurate parodies.
 
Jimmy is a teen in the middle of one identity crisis after another. Truly believing he’s black comes first; wearing his mother’s clothes comes second. The too-old Jake Boyd tries to maintain his dignity, and that turns out to be the most impressive aspect of his performance.
 
Natalie Venetia Belcon must be very tired of playing Gary Coleman in Avenue Q, because it’s still running, and she prefers to be here. Phyllis is drawn – no, caricatured – as one of those people who is perky and pleasant, but as soon as she’s challenged, her voice suddenly drops an octave and you see who she really is. That’s supposed to be funny.
 
Finally, there’s Pam. Farah Alvin must play non-stop frenetic during the 90-minute mishap and little else. She does the job, but watching a woman act as if she’s an ape desperate for a banana is quite wearing quite fast.
 
Pam, by the way, smokes Marlboros. Wonder if this is the official cigarette of The Last Smoker in America?

 


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