Thursday, October 6, 2016

Applause! Applause! Review of That Golden Girls Show! - A Puppet Parody at DR2 Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of That Golden Girls Show! - A Puppet Parody at DR2 Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

That Golden Girls Show! - A Puppet Parody
Created & Directed by Jonathan Rockefeller
Puppet Creation & Puppetry Direction by Joel Gennari
Set & Lighting Design by David Goldstein
Michael LaMasa as Dorothy
Cat Greenfield as Blanche
Arlene Chadwick as Rose
Emmanuelle Zeesman as Sophia
Zach Kononov as Stanley
DR2 Theatre
103 East 15th Street
New York, New York 10003 
Reviewed 10/2/16

You hear upbeat music playing in the lobby and the theater prior to the show beginning, which puts you in a good mood as you wait for this 90-minute puppet parody of The Golden Girls television show to begin. "Gloria," "It's Raining Men," and "Like A Virgin" greet the "girls, gays and grannies" who have been invited for a walk down memory lane. Very familiar themes and zingers, most of which have been drawn directly from the 180 episodes are presented here by speaking humans carrying hand puppets Avenue Q style. The compacted set by David Goldstein is extremely impressive. It recreates the living room and kitchen used in the original television series with great accuracy. However, there is no lanai and we never get to see Blanche's bedroom although a lighted disco ball does descend into the living room when she is in the mood for a sexual experience. 

All four of the actors behind the puppets (Cat Greenfield as Blanche Devereaux, the sex-obsessed Southern Belle; Michael LaMasa as Dorothy Zbornak, the practical deep-voiced substitute teacher who divorced her husband Stan after he had an affair with a younger woman; Arlene Chadwick as Rose Nylund, the Norwegian American ditzy, innocent St. Olaf, Minnesota native; and Emmanuelle Zeesman as Sophia Petrillo, the outspoken Sicilian widow from Brooklyn who moved out of Shady Pines Retirement Home after it caught fire) have mastered the speaking style, hand gestures and body movements of the characters they play. They all do a remarkable job and are very convincing. The puppets themselves, expertly designed and directed by Joel Gennari, are stunningly crafted with make-up, costumes, accessories, and even facial expressions that are true to the Golden Girl they represent. An altered, post-plastic surgery Blanche Devereaux puppet even makes an appearance with big lips and big breasts before disappearing without explanation. Blanche then uses balloons to bolster her breast size. Zach Kononov (wearing an appropriately bad toupee) makes a convincing appearance as Stan. We learn that in order to inherit $400,000.00 from his dead aunt's estate, he must marry someone within a very short period of time. Dorothy is asked first and not knowing the true motivation behind his proposal, thinks he has changed and is serious about his professed love for her. Thinking Dorothy isn't interested, Blanche and Rose offer themselves up as brides-of-convenience. Blanche pops her balloons while in the process of sexually seducing Stan, and Rose, who only promised to cook for Stan, finally admits she and Charlie made up a lot of the weird words she often used in the original series.

The insults and banter are not fresh. You will recognize most of it and while, at first, you laugh because you know the lines, over time, the lack of innovative writing and/or parody, gets tiresome and tedious. Of course, if you are not a fan of the television series, all of this will be new to you. In that case, you will be extremely entertained and might even find yourself rolling in the aisles with laughter. I will give you some examples: Stan: "I always managed to put food on the table." Dorothy: "Which was quite an accomplishment for someone who has to get naked to count to 21."; Rose: "Can I ask a stupid question?" Sophia: "Better than anyone I know."; Blanche: "Who knows my body better than I do." Sophia: "Every man in Miami not attached to a respirator."; Blanche: "I haven't had sex in so long, I don't know if I'd know a penis if I sat on one."; Blanche: "Flirting is part of my heritage." Dorothy: "That means her mother was a slut too."; Sophia to Blanche & Rose: "Dorothy is so fat, the last time she went to the beach, Greenpeace tried to drag her back into the ocean."; Sophia to Dorothy: "I wish you wouldn't wear that leotard. It makes your camel toe look like a folded mattress."; and Rose to Blanche: "I would be careful before you decide to undergo plastic surgery. I know a woman who had so many lifts her belly button was up to her nose. In the end, she had to join the circus. There wasn't a more convincing bearded lady!". For the devoted fans, Dorothy even got a call from Toto. Her expected response was, "You want me to do what for $8.00?"

The show runs 90-minutes without an intermission, which seems like an eternity. There is a repeated, unnecessary line that "no one over the age of ten is interested in puppets." There is a lot of cheesecake eating and Dorothy finally says to Rose what she couldn't say on television, namely, "Fuck St. Olaf!" There is very little new and nothing I would call clever or witty in this show. I came expecting fresh writing, an interesting plot and some new insults I haven't heard before. Instead, I got more of the same, which isn't a parody of the original show, but more of a faithful recreation of a single 30-minute episode dragged out for an hour and a half. Blanche is concerned about her looks after a date cancels on her. Rose is trying to save St. Olaf's Herring Circus, which someone literally "pulled the plug on." Dorothy is again thinking about giving Stan another chance, and Sophia is trying a new way to raise money by selling Fernando and other items belonging to the girls, including Dorothy's diary of the experiences the Golden Girls have had together.  

In the end, the girls make up and share some more cheesecake (grateful they have each other) but the mystery remains as to how Sophia was able to afford a mink coat and a large screen television. It turns out she sold the television rights to the stories in Dorothy's diary and they all gather around the television set to watch the show supposedly based on their lives. At first, Blanche thinks the show is not about them because there's a man living with them (no, not Coco) but they soon realize "That's not a man. That's Bea Arthur!" Sophia says the girls will each get a cut of the money if the show goes into syndication but they are convinced it will never last. If the weak plot and lame jokes in this show were what was portrayed in the original series, it wouldn't have lasted seven minutes, let alone seven seasons. 

That Golden Girls Show! - A Puppet Parody will be playing at DR2 Theatre through December 11, 2016. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday; 10:00 p.m. on Friday and 8:00 p.m. on Saturday. Matinee performances are at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday & Sunday. Tickets cost $69.00 or $99.00. For reservations, call 1-800-982-2787 or visit 

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