What is playing at Dodger Stages these days is is a brand of "creative, hip, edgy, entrepreneurial downtown" type theater reminiscent of the glory of New York's theatrical past, with a modern twist........in the convenience of midtown west. Symbolic of this renaissance of sorts is "Pieces of Ass", a New Scenario Entertainment Production.
The phrase "Pieces of Ass" conjures up an image of a drunken frat boy, redneck or misogynist Male's lustful matter of reference to women. Admittedly while that phraseology has never been part of my vocabulary, the image of someone deserving of that title is nevertheless quite vivid. On that level alone, the show does not disappoint. The title is as jarring or offensive as it is descriptive of the pure quality of femininity that plays on the stage several nights per week, from the regular cast members to the Center Pieces which have graced the stage in the last few months, including Anna Benson, Catherine Hickland, Supermodel's Carol Alt & Janice Dickinson to reality stars Jennifer Crisafulli, Trishelle Canatella, Kirsten Buschbacher and so on. The women are all exceptionally beautiful and compelling in uniquely different ways.
This past Sunday I had the opportunity to see the 100th performance of Pieces of Ass at Dodger Stages. For a variety of reasons, I had been reticent to see the show until a couple of months ago when I received the invitation from publicist in the know, Norah Lawlor of the Lawlor Media Group. Norah is like E.F. Hutton; when she calls, people listen. Never does she overshadow or steal the limelight from clients. Norah and her protege Katie Murphy spend most of their time methodically connecting the dots in New York City, making sure that their clients get the proper exposure.The hook was that the upcoming show was a Benefit Performance & Fundraiser for Victims of the Tsunami Disaster hosted by Anna Benson, wife and agent of Kris Benson, New York Mets pitcher. The show was to be followed by a cast party at The Darklight represented by charming nightlife publicist Tamie Peters.
By the time I had gone to see the show for the first time, it had been critiqued by most of the real writers in the major print publications. I had preconceived notions about the show and wondered what I would get out of watching really hot women kvetching about the relative challenges that they have faced as a result of the gifts that mother nature has bestowed on them. It turned out that I could not be any more wrong.
The show had opened in the wake of the popularity of Sex and the City and the female empowerment movement. Needless to say, I was not impressed with the symbols of female empowerment in Manhattan social life. From Manhattan to the Hampton's I witnessed the growth of a vapid female class of frat boys who, in the name of girl power, adopted all of the horrible traits of their fraternity type male counterparts rather than the lessons of true independence, individual responsibility, camaraderie and support. Sex and the City may have been a show with contrary intentions but it came to represent vapid ideals such as "the BBD" (the bigger better deal syndrome) combined with consumerist excess. It was an infomercial for everything that was repulsive in our urban culture.
Perhaps I had a chip on my shoulder or lingering resentment and hostility from being dumped by an avowed princess with a self entitlement complex. The last thing that I was receptive to was a show about the crisis faced by beautiful and intelligent women in this town. I was a 40 something male who felt the jibe in Bruce Springsteen's song "Glory Days" and wondered too if my best days were behind me. If so, why did I waste all those prime years dating one Manhattan Princess after another with problems so complicated as which physician was the most liberal dispensing prescription drugs (anti-depressants and sleeping pills) while they sucked down Cosmo's and contemplated such difficult choices as (a) Gucci vs. Prada, (b) who pays for the Manolo's, (i) her account, (ii) daddy's Amex or (iii) the schmo/boyfriend, i.e., me. The last one, a ruthless publicist (joke!) broke my heart. So much so that it changed me and defeated me as much as I tried to not let it do so. In fact, around that time a female friend observed, "Chris, you have gone from a buff yuppie attorney with the body of Sylvester Stallone to an angry middle aged man, like Larry David." She was right. Accordingly, I was really in no mood for "women on the verge" on Broadway or off Broadway.
With my expectations low, my escort having canceled and sensing that there were far worse things to do than to watch and listen to beautiful women on stage and afterward take a few photos I head to Dodger Stages. I was a little self conscious. A writer I am not....a photographer? Patrick McMullan is not exactly quivering in his boots. I am more like the accidental tourist on the Manhattan social scene. All the doors opened once I genuinely did not care whether I was accepted for who I was or not. I am always invited but never question why, never crash and do not engage in paparazzi style photography as I am not looking to humiliate or expose anyone. Ivy League education and former Wall Street legal career not with standing, I have never forgotten where I come from, the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. I am bridge and tunnel. My mom was born in Chelsea so Manhattan is really her town. When she remarried, we got poached to the Island of Manhattan, leaving the D Train and 7 Train behind.
I look at everything through the lens of the one who is dying to get in but cannot, not because he is awed by who or what is inside but more out of a genuine curiosity to see and understand, much like I was as a child sitting in the living room pretending to play with my toys while eavesdropping on adult conversations. I can't help it. On some level I am socially addicted.
The success of "Pieces of Ass" lays in the zone of free expression that Brian Howie, Thomas Hanna and the folks at New Scenario Entertainment have so adeptly crafted without otherwise undermining the story telling by a talented and evolved cast of women who share their real life experiences in a manner that is both earnest and entertaining. Many of these women, I hope to be seeing on the stage and screen in the coming years.
Pieces of Ass succeeds specifically, however, because it is smart, sassy and well styled but more so because it will make you fall in love with women all over again. You will see women in a new light. Your confidence restored in the value of womanhood as a whole. It rekindles the spirit and helps men (and women) understand, at least partially, the wonder and complexity of femininity. If you are like me, you walk away wondering whether perhaps at some point you in your life you have underestimated or misjudged an exceptional woman or two, if not more. Pieces of Ass is a modern tapestry of the cultural phenomenon which is the 21st century woman. To see a collection of photos from several shows and cast parties that I have taken,click here