Cast Conjurs Dottie in Gonk Show

[PHOTO OF SHOW CAST]
Hanging out in the Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel after the opening night of “Social Note” are (from left): Heather Bucha, George Demas, Jennifer Bayly, Christina Kirk and Bill Migliore.

Any Dorothy Parker fan will be knocked out by the new Parker show, “Social Note”, marvelously staged at the Algonquin Hotel. Leaving aside the historical significance of the show — come on, they are staging it in the actual Oak Room, right on the very same spot as the Round Table — it would be a dynamite show at a roadhouse in Peoria. This show is what Parker fans crave: great actors breathing life into Dottie’s material.

The cast is pure gold. There are three actresses and two actors to play all the parts. The star of the show is Heather Bucha, who plays the “Dorothy” with style and panache. Bucha has a spark and zest for the role that she sails through the evening. Bucha wears two hats: not only acting, she also adapted the material for the show. Director Ted Snowdon, who works wonders in the space, pulls it off well in what is really a long dining room.

What is terrific about “Social Note” is the fire the cast brings to Parker’s work. We’ve all read her stories over and over again. You can whip off her quips and quotes with ease. Know her best-loved verse and poems by memory, and can anticipate every upcoming word. But until you see it onstage, with real actors in costume and punching the words out — WOW. It is one incredible evening.

True, sitting in the old Algonquin (the place is 97 years old) is a cool experience. One is aware of all the history and ghosts around. You are drinking where Parker and Benchley once did 80 years ago! One actor after the show remarked how wild it was to spot hotel guests walking into the lobby, and seeing them carrying Parker books. Seeing “Social Note” was like living the perfect Dorothy Parker evening, and it made you want more than the 100 minutes they dished up.

[PHOTO OF HEATHER & TED]
Heather Bucha and director Ted Snowdon on opening night at the Gonk.

From the fur-trimmed women’s costumes and high heels, to the piano tinkling in the background, the mood was dead-on for a fun night at the theater. (One word of caution: tickets are a steep $40 a pop and drinks are about $10 each. This isn’t a night at the Blair Witch Project).

The gorgeous Heather Bucha opens the show with a selection of “Mrs. Post Enlarges on Etiquette” the hilarious piece from The New Yorker. She fills the room with Parker’s presence. Is she channeling? I don’t know, but the audience hung on every word.

There are five short stories presented by the cast. “You Were Perfectly Fine” with George Demas as the boozer with the hangover from hell and Christina Kirk as the giddy girlfriend who puts up with his shenanigans. I really liked this couple. They remind you of those people at a bar who keep drinking and drinking and have no idea how hammered they are getting. Seeing this story set the “day after” will hit home with those who also imbibe and then can’t recall the next day. Kirk was sweet as sugar and perfect.

One of the standouts of the night was the great staging of one of Parker’s most famous stories, “Dusk Before Fireworks” with Jennifer Bayly and Bill Migliore. He plays a classic Parker male character, the outlandishly stereotype of the playboy boyfriend. He is marvelous and Bayly is super as the put-upon gal pal.

Hopefully some big shot movie casting director will drop by the Gonk and see Bucha rip into “Just A Little One” — a solo piece that is just wonderful. She hits the story perfectly as the speakeasy flapper who gets sauced, lights up her date, bemoans her sad state of affairs, then comes around. The monologue was one of the most memorable parts of the show.

The staging of “Here We Are” switched from the original setting of a train car to a hotel room, but this piece with Migliore and Christina Kirk was the standout of the night. So perfect. The honeymooning couple and their crazy arguments were both humorous and touching at the same time. They played the newlyweds convincingly and with passion.

One of the best parts of the night was seeing Demas come out in drag as the aging stage star Lily Wynton in “Glory in the Daytime” — and pulling it off so well. Bayly was the homely housewife and Bucha’s silly socialite were killer to see.

The cast also trotted out many Parker quips and anecdotes, some of them popular and some obscure. Bucha recited two of the most popular Dottie pieces, “The Red Dress” and “Coda” — which ended the show.

This is the kind of show that is keeping Parker’s work out there in the public eye. Performed at the Algonquin makes sense. Try and see it if you can.

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