There’s a lot happening on stage at Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, but unfortunately, not enough of the right things. This new David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane musical is jam-packed with Broadway A-listers, but unfortunately, Broadway’s best actors don’t write. Which asks the question: why would the likes of Patti LuPone, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Sherie Rene Scott sign on to a show with such poor writing?
Based on the 1988 Pedro Almodovar film of the same name, the story finds Pepa (Scott) dumped via answering machine by her lover Ivan (Mitchell). The message sends her into a “Why me??” rampage across Madrid, in which she meets Ivan’s wife, Lucia (LuPone), who is just as “Why me??”—only funnier. Pepa’s airhead of a pal (Laura Benanti) finds out she might be dating a terrorist and Lucia’s son’s fiancée (Nikka Graff Lanzarone) thinks her future husband might have separation issues with his mother, and before you know it, they’re all crying “Why me??”
Why this show? Why now? Why would Yazbek, Lane, and director Barlett Sher (of the fantastic South Pacific revival) unite this cast for such a paper-thin musical? Since the show is only scheduled to run till only the end of January, perhaps it’s because these actors figured this would be an easy showcase. And it is—no one in the cast breaks a sweat.
Scott gives a vacant performance as Pepa, unable even to make her character’s whininess authentic. Lanzarone gives off a “Why am I even here?” air to her performance. The fantastic de’Adre Aziza (Passing Strange) isn’t given anything to work with. (She understudies the role of Pepa, which I would be very keen on seeing.)
No one in Women on the Verge is given much character depth. That said, Patti LuPone makes a refreshing switch from her usual weighty roles and absolutely relishes in her eccentric Lucia. Whether she’s shamelessly ripping off a wig or standing in front of a Picasso painting and declaring how terrible she looks, LuPone is having a blast on stage, and thus gives the audience some of the evening’s few charms. Danny Burstein, hot off his last Sher collaboration with South Pacific, can once again be counted upon to bring the charm. His Taxi Driver doesn’t do much but spin Pepa around the stage in a crazy cab a few times, but each time is a welcome arrival. The real credit in the cast goes to Benanti, who is a riot as the model Candela. She’s a delightful twit with perfect timing, hilarious facial twists, and spot-on physical comedy. She delivers the best number of the show with “Model Behavior,” as she leaves a call-screening Pepa an innumerable amount of I-need-your-help voicemails. Read more