Saturday, September 22, 2018

Review: Staying Up Late With Mildred

By Ed Malin

New York’s long-running live soap opera It’s Getting Tired Mildred is the brainchild of writer-director Roger Nasser. For thirty-three episodes and counting, a large cast of eager, innovative theater people come together for a late Saturday night show and then stay for a party. Through a continuing series of amazing events (exquisitely like the classic soap operas), the residents of Mildred Springs make love, flirt with death, and, hilariously, strike poses which would normally be directed at a camera but of course end up pointing at the audience. You will laugh as you remember/discover the 1980s.
Fans of “Days of Our Lives”, “General Hospital” and “Another World” will find much to enjoy in the rather dramatic cast of characters at Sacred Corpuscle Memorial Hospital in Mildred Springs. The team thoughtfully starts this episode, entitled “Labor Pains” with a recap of past heartbreaks, accidental murders and what have you; since September’s episode was the beginning of the new season and the first in the show’s new residency at the Davenport Theater, I found this trip down memory lane most helpful. Then, the cast parade onstage to Steve Sabaugh’s theme song, each taking a moment in the spotlight to introduce themselves and suggest their murky pasts. You will chuckle when you meet the extremely handsome and aptly named doctors such as Roderick Donovan (Adam Files), Jasper Stone (Patrick Shearer), his father Angus Stone (Tom Reid), and his love interest, the exotically accented Florence Maxwell (Stephanie Cox-Connolly), who calls him “An-Goose”. Last season, it came to light that decades ago there had been a baby switch at Sacred Corpuscle. Now that Celeste Wilson (Hope Cartelli) is ready to give birth to a baby boy, the entire staff is ready to prevent any malfeasance. Unfortunately, no one has been able to overcome the vengeful hypnosis crimes of Cornelius Milton (Linus Gelber).  Otherwise immaculate nurse Constance Dranreb (Heather Lee Rogers) emerges from smothering Avery Phillips (Broderick Ballantyne) under hypnotic suggestion only to find that his twin brother Brice Phillips (Broderick Ballantyne) loves her so much he will impersonate his dead brother. Local therapist Everett Maxwell (Bryan Enk) was once under Cornelius’s sway but now is his adversary, working with Florence Maxwell to perpetrate different kinds of disasters.
photo by Roger Nasser
The show is not lacking in social commentary. Those delightful gurus of the 1980s are represented by Darvish El Ganan (Richard Lovejoy). Darvish, dressed in sunglasses and a flowing robe, has recruited Bruce Linwood (Bob Laine) and his sister Miranda Linwood (Amanda Lapergola) into his meditation society (“stop calling it a cult!”) which spreads peace and light to the world. Miranda, formerly seen to have an alcohol problem and always found carrying and talking to her dog, Lucius, is now on a healthy kick, except for any risk of hypnosis by Cornelius Milton. Twenty-something Olivia Phillips (Rebecca Gray Davis) feuds with her mother, the ‘80s-inflected Madelyne Wilson-Phillips (Melissa Roth) about her many loves. Olivia also has choice words for her half-sister (formerly her aunt; the baby switch has altered their relationship), the freewheeling Justine Wilson (Lex Friedman).  Justine is engaged to be married to Dr. Roderick Donovan but, according to Olivia, will probably break it off as she did her previous engagement to Edgar Milton (Paul Black). And then there is Madelyne’s ex-husband Baxter Phillips (Fred Backus), with whom she has reconciled.  Baxter discovers in his desk drawer the diary of a mysterious lady, Ramona Fauxdalm. (In past episodes, Baxter was hypnotized and took on the cross-dressing persona of Fauxdalm, leading to much romance with many other men at the hospital.) Dudley Vance (C.L. Weatherstone), local male stripper at Studley’s, supplies nose candy to the razor-sharp Charmaine Milton (Morgan Zipf-Meister), who forges an uneasy alliance with her sister, Justine Wilson. While OBGYN Bianca Franklin (Toya Lillard), head nurse Cassandra Phillips (Amy Overman) and surgeon Antoine Bassets (Adam Swiderski) assure everyone that there will be no security issues around the birth of Celeste Wilson’s baby and Miranda and Bruce Linwood intone positive mantras, smug Cornelius Milton (whose life was altered by the swapping of his own baby) insists on meddling yet again. Whom does the dastardly Cornelius dare manipulate this time, and would it complicate the plot if he succeeded?
If there’s a boring moment in this show, I haven’t been able to find it. Roger Nasser’s direction of the cast of 24 [including a phone call appearance from Olivia’s love interest, Max (Erik Olson)] is laugh-out-loud funny. The monthly episodes have grown to about 75 minutes in length, which really allows each character to develop (and to engage in multiple love affairs). It’s Getting Tired Mildred is an homage to soap operas, even for people who might not be addicted to soap operas. The cast is full of men with well-defined jaw lines and women with legs who know how to use them. Holly Pocket MacCaffrey has tirelessly costumed this army of performers in chic and sexy style; there were many new costumes this season, down to Bob Laine’s meditation toga. Impromptu “commercials” within the show advertise delicious Roger’s Crispie Treats, while the episodes usually culminate in a group synth dance number. The new season opened with a sell-out show. Fortunately for you, the Davenport is larger than the previous venues (Under St. Mark’s and The Brick), but you should try very hard to get a seat for the next show in the series.