Apartment 12-D tenant Brick Wilson (Rusty Hamrick) is the biggest up-and-coming opera singer in the Ansonia Hotel, which isn’t saying much.  His best role so far has been that of the bearded lady in a zarzuela. Brick is frequently visited by a beauteous (though occasionally invisible) nymph (Beth Whitney), whose mission is to inspire him to greatness. Unfortunately for the nymph, Brick is gay, so her beauteousness is pretty much lost on him.

A frequent visitor to Brick’s apartment building is Pfeiffer (Mercy Malick), a one- named ingénue with a voice impediment. Pfeiffer’s job is to water the plants. Somehow or other, 12-E tenant, straight-boy Doug (Barrett Kime) ends up in Brick’s shower, his clothes left under the sofa, the first of many occasions when either Brick or Doug will be wearing naught but a towel.  Since both Hamrick and Kime look very good sans shirt, this is good news indeed.

Thus begins writer/composer/director Gib Wallis’s Nymphony In 12-D, a farce with music.

Completing the cast of characters is Brick’s girlish on-again off-again boyfriend Michael (James Gaudioso), a curly-haired soprano-voiced cutie who appears only once in a towel. Unlike Brick and Doug, though, shy Michael keeps his torso well hidden by a second towel.

Like any farce, Nymphony in 12-D features mistaken identities, misunderstandings, and “go hide in the shower” moments. There are also some laugh-provoking double entendres.  One revolves around a character’s thinking that “do his place” means “have sex with him” and other one-liners revolve around the verbs “suck” and “come.”

Among the performers, Kime stands out for giving the most reality based performance, and therefore the most believable and sympathetic.  Hamrick is ingratiating as Brick, and Whitney is a lovely and statuesque nymph indeed.  Malick is the best singer in the cast, with Kime coming in a close second. (Note: Though Nymphony is billed as a “farcical” (i.e. musical farce), there are only six songs.)

Diana Silero has designed a colorful live-action cartoon set, with shabby chic sofa and cut-outs representing plants and lamps, a motif carried through in cut-out prop keys, watering cans, and even a pair of cardboard 2xist briefs. Costumes (and presumably towels) are by Nail and Rockett design.  Musical director Brian Murphy on keyboard provides excellent accompaniment, though his considerable talents are underused here. Dan Stewart’s lighting design is basic in the extreme and leaves the entire upstage area, where much of the action takes place, in shadow.

Nymphony in 12-D has its bright moments, but could have benefited from the vision of an outside director. As it stands, Wallis’s play provides a promising and sometimes funny (though uneven) evening of theater.

Meta Theatre, 7801 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles.
Steven Stanley
May 24, 2008

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