Adrift in Macao
For all its charms, Christopher Durang and Peter Melnick's musical parody of film noir lacks a needed edge.
For all its charms, however, Adrift in Macao lacks a needed edge. It's not just Durang-Lite, it's Durang-Late; this kind of parody has been done before. Think of much of Charles Busch's work -- except that the leading lady in Macao is actually a woman.
Our anti-hero, Mitch (Alan Campbell), enters the scene as all anti-heroes do, with a chip on his shoulder. In a nod toward Alfred Hitchcock, we learn that Mitch is looking for Mr. McGuffin, but Durang deflates his own joke by explaining it. (He should give the audience more credit, or simply explain the reference in the program.) Soon, Mitch meets the beautiful blonde Lureena (Rachel De Benedet); she falls hard for him, but he's too much of an anti-hero to notice. Adding to the Casablanca feel, the saloon where most of the action takes place is run by a fellow named Rick -- Rick Shaw (Will Swenson).
The many plot turns that follow are part and parcel of the genre being parodied. For instance, there is a purposefully unprepared number performed at the saloon -- because, if you think about it, we never see anyone rehearse in any of these movies. Character-types are lampooned as well, such as the tough-girl sidekick (a winning Michele Ragusa) and the inscrutable Asian, here named Tempura and played with star-making vibrancy by Orville Mendoza.
Campbell is quite well cast; he comes across like a nuttier version of Sterling Hayden. De Benedet was hampered by a cold and couldn't sing as she might have in the performance we attended; regardless, she was altogether underwhelming. (Her role would have been much funnier played by the likes of Julie Halston.) Jonathan Rayson and Elisa Van Duyne provide attractive backup as a variety of minor characters. Sheryl Kaller's direction is playful, and Willa Kim's costumes are colorful and fun.
Melnick's music is bouncy and, as it should be here, generically familiar. Durang's lyrics are cute and comically self-aware, sometimes to a fault. Still, the songs are what makes this particular show worth catching.