10. BUNTY BERMAN PRESENTS
Knowing that I was going to see BUNTY BERMAN PRESENTS, which is being produced at the Acorn Theatre by the New Group, friends who had seen it said I shouldn’t expect very much but that it nevertheless was lightweight fun and I’d have a good time. I’ve seen many such shows where the artistic or intellectual quality was not as important as simply leaving your taste and your brains at the door, and just enjoying yourself in silliness, sexiness, or some similarly secondary concern. I wish that this had been true of my response to BUNTY BERMAN PRESENTS.
Instead I sat for over two sluggish hours as a band of enthusiastic but only occasionally effective actors, singers, and dancers mugged their way through Ayub Khan Din’s clichéd and mostly unfunny attempt to parody the Bollywood world of Indian movie musicals. Scott Elliott’s direction and Josh Prince’s choreography are as obvious and uninspired as the plot, which concerns a famous producer (also Ayub Khan Din) whose studio is failing; an egotistical movie hero (Sorab Wadia) whose age, poundage, and hairline are markers on the road to oblivion; the producer’s decision to save the studio with the help of a gangster’s (Alok Tewari) money at the price of making his talentless son (Raja Burrows) a star; a romance between the studio’s female star (Lipica Shah) and the handsome tea boy (Nick Choksi) with star potential; and another love story involving the producer and his secretary (Gayton Scott). Everything is all too familiar from a host of Hollywood and Broadway treatments.
There are some saving graces, such as Wendall K. Harrington’s clever projections that convert Derek McLane’s set showing the bare-walled interior of a studio sound stage into a wide variety of indoor and outdoor locations, including one creating the illusion of a thunderstorm. Ayub Khan Din (the playwright and star) and Paul Bogaev’s music, in the retro mode of 1950s and 1960s pop tunes, has a generally listenable, albeit commonplace, quality. William Ivey Long’s costumes are often colorful, witty, and character appropriate. Here and there in Scott Elliott’s staging are some amusing notions, although too frequently mingled with cheap laughs. I liked, for example, the idea of parodying the opening logo of MGM movies by replacing the lion with a cow; on the other hand, do we really have to have a huge papier mâché elephant’s rear end through whose anus the head of the fading movie star appears?
My friends’ advice to me was well meant, but there’s no way I’d be able to pass the same on to others planning to see BUNTY BERMAN PRESENTS.