Saturday, July 20, 2013

Empire Stage: The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode (reviews)

. Empire Stage opened its production of The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode on June 27, 2013.
Inspired the the ‘80s sitcom, Facts features an all-male cast as the girls of Eastland High.  The girls’ dorm, and Mrs. Garrett’s job is in jeopardy due to the budget cuts.  The evil schoolmaster wants to take everything away from them and get into Mrs. G’s pants.  Blair, Tootie, Natalie and Jo will not allow this to happen, and they are willing to do anything, and I mean anything, to forbid this.  The girls turn to prostitution to raise all of the money that they will need to keep their cozy dorm and Mrs. G.
Christopher Kenney directed a cast that featured Jamie Morris, David Tracy, Shawn Burgess, Brooks Braselman, and Charles Logan.

Michelle F. Solomon wrote for miamiartzine:
"You take the good, you take the bad. . ." Those are the opening lyrics of the theme song from the long running television sitcom The Facts of Life. The NBC show did have its share of good and some bad, and so does its alter ego stage comedy The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode now playing at Empire Stage.
Morris as Mrs. Garrett is just plain cheeky, with the sing-song delivery of dialogue hitting vocal octaves that are downright acrobatic. Braselman as the pleasingly plump, perpetually grinning Natalie steals the show more than once or twice playing a number of different characters... There isn't a weak link in the ensemble. Morris, Braselman and Logan have toured with the show previously, while Burgess and Tracy were cast in SoFla for the Empire Stage production.
Christopher Kenney directs the show with fast pacing. It's much more effective in the episodic first act than when the story begins to get more linear in the second act. Three musical numbers with lyrics by Braselman and Morris are too similar and never really hit the same heights as the rest of the comedy. In fact, they seem like filler and interrupt the show's comic tempo.
John Thomason reviewed for The Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
There is a place in the Western theater canon for Pinter, O'Neill, and Shakespeare, and there is also a place for shows with lines like "When I was your age, I was as moist as a Sara Lee pound cake."

Jamie Morris' The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode is one of the latter shows...
(Jamie Morris) takes on the plum role of Mrs. Garrett, his wig a towering, ginger bird's nest over gaudy makeup and endless pearls, a sense of trashy couture maintained by a trilling, hyperbolic vocal pattern.
Braselman is terrific in two roles, conveying Natalie's brusqueness in a performance that conjures barking drill sergeants and Chris Farley's mall girl from Saturday Night Live. She doubles as the show's villain and headmaster...
As Jo, Logan is perhaps the most skilled performer at channeling the wide-eyed, simple emotionality of '80s sitcom acting, and Tracy offers a more-than-capable Blair, a far cry from his history of Shakespeare festivals. Despite a game effort, Burgess may be the show's weak link as Tootie, simply because, unlike the rest of the ensemble, you can practically see the cerebral gears grinding toward his decisions. Acting rather than being, he tends to underplay when everyone around him overplays, and subsequently, many of his lines fall flat.
Everything in this show cycles back to "the old in-and-out," and to the show's credit, its crudeness never gets tiring: It's funny and subversive all the way to the end. Considering that the original TV series' example of edgy humor was its Asian character, Miko, saying, "What do I know about math — I use an abacus!," a little bit of dirty talk goes a long way.
The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode plays at Empire Stage through August 4, 2013.

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