Monday, July 22, 2019

45 (2019-2020): BROADWAY BOUNTY HUNTER (seen July 20, 2019)

“A Woman of a Certain Age”

Annie Golden, now 67, may have a deep and abiding place in the hearts of veteran theatregoers with offbeat inclinations but it’s probably safe to say, along with Wikipedia, that “she is best known for playing mute Norma Romano” on the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black.” Readers not familiar with her should really take a look at the aforesaid Wikipedia page, and also Google the images of her changing appearance to get a clear perspective of just how diverse her career has been. As with all of us, she’s changed physically over the years, which is itself part of the self-deprecating humor that infuses her current, name-above-the-title, Off-Broadway show, Broadway Bounty Hunter, at the Greenwich House Theater.
Company of Broadway Bounty Hunter. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
If you don’t know of Golden’s golden years, when she was the lead singer with the punk rock band The Shirts, or when she appeared in various manifestations of Hair, or was in the original production of Sondheim’s Assassins, you’ll be deliciously delighted when she opens that snaggle-toothed mouth and displays her still terrifically listenable voice.
Jared Joseph, Jasmine Forsberg, Annie Golden, Christina Sajous. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
Let’s be clear: Broadway Bounty Hunter is a defiantly silly and campily over-the-top vehicle. It’s also very funny, and, if you go with its flow, performed with such persistent pizzazz by its unbeatably versatile ensemble that you may not believe you’re liking it so much. Broadway Bounty Hunter is probably too limited in appeal to be Broadway bound but it deserves an extended Off-Broadway life when its run at Greenwich House expires.
Omar Garibay, Jasmine Forsberg, Jared Joseph, Badia Farha, Christina Sajous. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
I’m fully aware that, like even the best of Charles Ludlam’s old Theatre of the Ridiculous productions, some audiences won’t tune in to its wavelength. Others, like most of the audience when I attended, will give it their hearts, if not their minds. I’ll put it this way: the show, which originated at the Barrington Stage Company in the Berkshires, has a score by Joe Iconis, whose Be More Chill will soon be closing its Broadway run. That show, too, had an exaggerated book, based on a popular young adult’s novel, but, apart from one or two numbers, it failed to engage me.
Annie Golden. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
Broadway Bounty Hunter’s charmingly preposterous book, by Iconis, Lance Rubin, and Jason Sweettooth Williams, had me from the start, maybe because it’s so filled with inside theatre stuff. Golden plays Annie Golden—a cartoon version of herself—not as the successful star she’s currently become, but as an aging actress who’s lost her popularity. As she laments in a song that becomes almost an anthem of self-assertion, she keeps getting turned down for parts because she’s “A Woman of a Certain Age.” It doesn’t help that she lives in the past, even attending auditions with dated headshots from the time of her cutest glory.
Company of Broadway Bounty Hunter. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
All right. I won’t go into great detail about the plot but here are some basics. Annie, whose beloved producer husband, Charlie, is believed to have drowned ten years earlier, finds herself with her power cut off because she hasn’t paid her bill. At that very moment, she’s confronted in her apartment by Master Shiro Jin (Emily Borromeo), a tall, sleek, Asian beauty who runs a bounty hunting operation with a team of six wickedly dangerous, attractive men and women hunters.
Jared Joseph, Badia Farha, Annie Golden, Jasmine Forsberg, Christina Sajous. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
Shiro recruits the frumpy Annie, who quickly masters the required martial arts techniques, not only because she’s surprisingly physically adept but because she’s able to invest her methods with theatrical knowhow, finding stage-related analogies and characters she’s played to solve each problem that arises.
Annie Golden, Alan H. Greene. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
She’s partnered by Shiro with the superfly hunter, Lazarus (Alan H. Greene), so swaggeringly cool you’d probably stick to him if your skin and his came in contact. Although initially resentful of the pairing, Lazarus leaves with his new partner for the jungles of Ecuador to bring back the villainous Mac Roundtree (Brad Oscar, The Producers), a pimp and drug pusher. Shiro wants him because he caused her actor brother, Hiro, to die from an overdose.
Emily Borromeo, Christina Sajous, Omar Garibay, Annie Golden, Jasmine Forsberg, Alan H. Greene. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
Mac’s goal is to produce shows on Broadway with casts juiced up on a drug he’s created called Fierce, whose potency will increase their talents multifold and give them so much energy they’ll be able to break the union rules of no more than eight shows a week by doing 15! Like a dedicated union deputy, Annie will not stand for such rule-breaking, although she’ll have to reconcile her bounty hunting duties with what she discovers about Mac’s identity.
Badia Farha, Jasmine Forsberg, Christina Sajous, Brad Oscar. Photo; Matthew Murphy.
Sit back and let the players do the work for you as the company—five playing multiple roles with clever wigs and a panoply of Sarafina Bush’s marvelously imagined costumes—takes you along to Ecuador and back on Michael Schweikardt’s adaptable set. Helping it all click are the continuously imaginative video projections of Brad Peterson and the first-class lighting effects by the great Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer.
Alan H. Greene, Brad Oscar. Photo: Matthew Murphy,
Director Jennifer Weiner’s staging and inventive choreography—much of it based on kung fu moves (watch out for those amazingly well-handled nunchucks!) and some done in hilarious slo mo—never flag as the action barrels along, with one rousing, rock-inspired show-stopper after the other. This is one of the most talented ensembles around, each with dancing, singing, acting, and comic skills so good they practically shout for wider recognition.
Annie Golden, Emily Borromeo. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
I salute Badhia Farha as Sienna and others; Jasmine Forsberg as Indigo and others; Omar Garibay as Spark Plug and others; Jared Joseph as Felipe and others; and Christina Sajous as Claudine Machine and others. They comprise a bodacious, booty-shaking team for the ages, especially when the shaking happens in Mac Roundtree’s “Ho House,” whose sex workers Annie wants to unionize.
Annie Golden, Alan H. Greene. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
Brad Oscar’s Mac Roundtree is as good as you’d expect from this musical comedy veteran. Alan H. Greene may have the name of someone you’d hire to do your taxes but he’s a strappingly striking dude—think an African-American Dwayne Johnson—whose powerhouse presence, physical and vocal, delivers time and again. Emily Borromeo is a dream of exotic mystery and control. Finally, Annie Golden’s comedic and musical glow, as she calls for women to rise up and smash the male patriarchy, shows that all that glisters is indeed golden.
Company of Broadway Bounty Hunter. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
Which leaves us with the burning question: what happens when, at Saturday matinees, Anne L. Nathan takes over for Annie Golden?
Company of Broadway Bounty Hunter. Photo: Matthew Murphy.
Greenwich House Theater
27 Barrow St., NYC
Through September 15