It’s a smoker – the very last one vs. the non-smokers in this absurd farce of a musical – THE LAST SMOKER IN AMERCIA – which is the brain storm of Bill Russell (Book and lyrics) with a rock /rap/Modernaires influenced score by Peter Melnick. What were these two smoking to come up with such an irritating and ridiculous show?
Out of work Ernie (an energetic and dedicated John Bolton) has quit the habit and is a member of Smoker’s Anonymous and dreams of being a rock star. His wife Pam (Farah Alvin with pipes like iron) adamantly refuses to give up her last cigarette even though it has become a crime to even have a cigarette let alone smoke one. There is some kind of machine up on the wall that can sniff out smoke and give updates on what will happen if caught.
Their annoying son Jimmy (Jake Boyd) fancies himself a “Gangsta” rapper, the result of too many video games and his desire to be one of his Black heroes. In fact, he thinks he is Black.
Nosey next door neighbor Phyllis (Natalie Venetia Belcon) – who is Black and a Jesus freak, refuses to tolerate Pam’s addiction. She is played way over the top as a full blown cartoon prancing around the stage of the Westside Theatre where this show is now playing.
That she also happens to be having wild sex with Ernie just complicates matters. His reason for this is: Pam smells so much of smoke that he couldn’t possibly spend another night sleeping on top of old smoky. That’s the level of the intended humor which comes across as simply tasteless.
Ernie and Phyllis sing a duet that ends with a shocker of a sight gag, which just might make you gag. And on another occasion Ernie hands over a rifle to his son and says “Shoot your mom.” He has a problem with anger management. That’s all I’ll divulge.
THE LAST SMOKER IN AMERCIA is played without intermission either to prevent people from fleeing or to condense what was obviously a two act show in its previous incarnation at the NYMF 2009. Pam must flee to save her life and returns a year later to find her son now wearing her red pumps and bathrobe and Phyllis and Ernie in matching pajamas.
Director Andy Sandberg does all he can to save the day, including an uncomfortable attempt at an audience join in sing along with the ironic refrain Help! Help! Help! The actors act as back up in some numbers jumping out of the refrigerator and broom closet and changing costumes to glitz up the relentless songs that I just kept checking off as they were finished.
The four actors are terrific singers. I wish they had better material. Nicotine Patch anyone?
NOTE: Bill Russell also wrote SIDE SHOW (Music by Henry Krieger) – a wonderful and original musical that I saw three times. It’s hard to imagine that this completely inane show was written by the same person.
www.lastsmoker.com Photos: Joan Marcus
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