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Curvy Widow

The always-reliable Nancy Opel in a new, autobiographical musical by Bobby Goldman, about coping with the death of her husband, the playwright James, when she was 55 years old.

Nancy Opel in a scene from “Curvy Widow” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

David Kaufman

David Kaufman, Critic

The always-reliable Nancy Opel has what should have been the role of a lifetime in Curvy Widow, a new, autobiographical musical by Bobby Goldman, about coping with the death of her husband, the playwright James, when she was 55 years old. But not even Opel can lift the show that contains her from the generic doldrums that keep it down. Nor can the six other players rise above director Peter Flynn’s pedestrian staging, or choreographer Marcos Santana’s lame choreography, to turn Curvy Widow into something worthwhile.

Part of the problem is that the story gets lost–or is it that it never really comes together?–between its more serious intentions and the sardonic tone it often takes in the telling. In the end, it’s hard to feel sympathy for Bobby when she seems more angry than confused.

The nondescript music and lackluster lyrics–both by Drew Brody–are on a par with the rest of the presentation. So is Rob Bissinger’s scenic design, which depicts Bobby’s “White Box Loft” as if it were an airport hangar–without the planes. And then there are those generic characters, telling generic stories.

Andrea Bianchi, Elizabeth Ward Land, Aisha de Haas, Christopher Shyer and Nancy Opel in a scene from “Curvy Widow” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

The show opens with Bobby and Jim (Ken Land) arising in the morning and greeting the day, as she sings about having everything “Under Control.” “Just a day in the life of the wife of a writer,” she warbles, referring to husband James, who, in real life, wrote the book for the musical Follies as well as the screenplays for both The Lion in Winter and They Might be Giants, among many other works.

Though we then observe Jim at his typewriter at his desk, by the end of the opening number he’s collapsed and died, and the ensemble is singing to Bobby, “Suddenly life makes it clear that you’re not in control.” Scene Two finds Bobby in her apartment with her three female friends (Andrea Bianchi, Elizabeth Ward Land, and Aisha De Haas) giving her various pills: for “sleep,” for “anxiety,” and for “depression,” they tell her. Next comes Bobby’s visit with her late-husband’s “shrink” (played by Alan Muraoka). “I figure you know the back story,” she says, as she lies down on the couch.

While the dialogue offers some stabs at humor and Opel–a first-rate comedienne of the old school–usually excels at comic timing, much of it falls flat here. Most of the 90-minute, intermission-less piece focuses, naturally enough, on Bobby’s attempts to create a new life for herself, ultimately meaning a new relationship. It’s during her second visit with the shrink that he says, “I’m making getting laid a medical directive”– to which Bobby replies, “Can you do that?” effectively ending the scene.

This leads to her going on-line to find someone, and ergo her screen name–what else, but Curvy Widow. “For the first time in my life/I can be anonymous,” sings Bobby in the title-song. “Everyone here is pseudonymous.”

Andrea Bianchi, Elizabeth Ward Land, Christoher Shyer, Nancy Opel, Alan Muraoka, Aisha de Haas and Ken Land in “Curvy Widow” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

In the ninth song (the awkwardly titled “The Rules for Whittling Down”) Bobby explains that 153 men on Match.com “maybe want to sleep with me.” “I should be a grieving widow but now I’m a piece of ass,” a distressed Bobby tells the shrink.

Things only deteriorate as Bobby proceeds to meet up with potential sex dates, and then, actually has a painful sexual experience. We’re told by one of Bobby’s doctors, that women of Bobby’s age have reduced “hormone levels,” which in turn leads to a “lubrication lack.”

Though Christopher Shyer is also on hand to play various other men that Bobby encounters, and though the always appropriate–and many–costumes have been put together by Brian Hemeseth, Curvy Widow offers nothing to redeem it from the depths of mediocrity to which it’s confined.

Curvy Widow (through December 31, 2017)

Westside Theatre/Upstairs

407 West 43rd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets call 212-239-6200 or visit http://www.CurvyWidow.com

Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission

David Kaufman
About David Kaufman (39 Articles)
David Kaufman has been covering the theater in New York since 1981. A former theater critic for the New York Daily News, he was also a long-time contributor to the Nation, Vanity Fair, the Village Voice and the New York Times. He is also the author of the award-winning Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam, the best-selling Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door, and his most recent biography, Some Enchanted Evenings: The Glittering Life and Times of Mary Martin.

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