We Three Lizas
Since 1995, About Face Theatre’s (AFT) mission has been to "create exceptional, innovative, and adventurous plays to advance the national dialogue on gender and sexual identity and to challenge and entertain audiences in Chicago, across the country, and around the world." With the world premiere of We Three Lizas, the company hits many, if not quite all, of those benchmarks.
Scott Bradley’s book is a loosely structured send up of "A Christmas Carol" with nods to a variety of fairy tales. Aging design magnate Conrad (Ticklebottom) House of Conrad sees his fortunes waning and enlists the aid of his faithful, beleaguered assistant, Reggie, to steal a magic book allowing him to summon Mystique, the Queen of Wishes, to demand the usual trinity: Youth, Weath, and Beauty. Wackiness ensues and two incarnations of Liza Minelli (Liza that Was and Liza that Is) are summoned to teach Conrad an Important Lesson.
The story isn’t without its charms, and Alan Schmuckler’s music is pleasant, if not particularly remarkable. The three-piece band, led by Schmuckler, as well as Josh Horvath’s Sound Design, was also integral to where the show succeeds.
Overall, though, the play is oddly paced and, frankly, takes too long to get the Lizas. Despite flaws in the story, though, "We Three Lizas" is decidedly enjoyable, thanks largely to the enthusiastic, talented, and well-directed cast, as well as creative choreography (in a challenging space, no less, though Jerre Dye’s set imposes an impressively usable floor plan on to it) by Patrick Andrews.
Scott Duff (Conrad) and Dana Tretta (Reggie) do an admirable job and fully commit to some of the material that could have contributed to some of the pacing issues in less capable hands. In the supporting cast, Sean Michael Hunt and Arturo Soria bear most of the burden of choreography as Twinks 1 and 2. They bear it exceptionally well and, again, keep the show moving where it might have dragged.
Also in the supporting cast, John Francisco, Andrew Swan, AJ Ware, and Sharriese Hamilton do well with not much to go on. Francisco and Swan, at least, have dual roles depicting young Conrad and the love he let slip away in case something better came along, and they manage to achieve some touching moments. Ware and Hamilton seem to be capable of more than the show gave them to do.
But the show truly belongs to the Lizas, as is only right and proper. Danielle Plisz was stunning as Liza Then. She captured the manic energy and determination of the young Liza and her voice and dancing were fabulous. As Liza Now, Scott Bradley, was wickedly funny and managed to poke fun at, show affection for, and create empathy toward the woman who most definitely has the biggest balls in the world. Sean Blake, who plays both Mystique and the unnamed third incarnation (Liza Later?), is more successful in the former role than in the latter, but that may be more attributable to the play’s weak ending.
Whatever its imperfections, "We Three Lizas" makes for a fun night of holiday theatre.
We Three Lizas runs through December 23 at the Steppenwolf Grarage, 1624 N. Halsted, Chicago. For tickets, contact Steppenwolf Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or visit www.steppenwolf.org.