Tuesday, March 15, 2011

WLS Theater Review: "Cactus Flower"

Hey there, groovy cats!  Are the winter blues becoming a drag? Are bad times bringing you down? Is life feeling like one never ending bummer?  Then come on down to Westside Theater (at 403 W.43rd street in New York City) for the fantastic nifty groovalicious vibes of Cactus Flower, the new Off-Broadway staging now starring the "Cool Rider" from Grease 2 Maxwell Caulfield, and soap alum Lois Robbins. 

The revival of this 1965 play, directed by Michael Bush, sticks very close to the original material that made it one of the biggest hits of that decade.  It immediately invites the audience into a world in which LP records played, dames smoked indoors, flight attendants were "stewardesses," and Walter Cronkite gently told us what was happening in the world.  It is within this framework that we are drawn into the lives of love-sick hippie chick Toni (Jenni Barber), her older stuffy dentist boyfriend Julian (Caulfield), and his overprotective "sergeant" of a nurse Stephanie (Robbins).  Through a series of comical misunderstandings, assumptions, and outright lies (that no doubt later inspired the shenanigans on THREE'S A COMPANY and many 70s sitcoms), each character is confronted with a challenge, a choice, and an inspiration that helps them to take a step toward growth and rediscovery.

At the center of all this tomfoolery is daytime star Robbins, whom soap fans may better recognize  as Concetta on RYAN'S HOPE, and Anna Tolan on ALL MY CHILDREN.  It is well established early on that Nurse Stephanie's confined, rigid, and prickly nature has led her to live a monolithic yet comfortable life. But when her devotion to the good dentist puts her in the middle of situations in which she is perceived in a very different light, she begins to flourish into a confident, determined, adventurous spirit.  Robbins takes on this role with all the sensitivity and vigor required to engage the audience and maintain their emotional investment in this delightful, yet thin, premise. 

Ultimately, the story's message of evolution and self-discovery transcends any decade.   Whether you prefer the term "groovy", "rad", "the shizzle," or "killer," you will enjoy watching this fun romp into yesteryear and feel inspired to allow your own inner cactus flower to bloom.  

S.A.S.S. (Short Attention Soap Summary)

WHAT IS IT: Cactus Flower, the new (and first major) revival of the classic 1965 Broadway comedy, starring Maxwell Caulfield (ex-DYNASTY, ex-THE COLBYS, ex-AMC), Lois Robbins (ex-RYAN'S HOPE, ex-AMC, ex-LOVING), as well as the engaging Jenni Barber and Jeremy Bobb.

WHY SOAP FANS WILL LOVE IT: Despite the comedic hijinks there are underlying themes of self-doubt, insecurity, and love overcoming all obstacles, that will resonate with fans of daytime.

BOTTOM LINE: This play is for anyone who has ever wondered if love has passed them by, if they will end-up becoming an "old maid," or anyone feeling nostalgic for a simpler and more swinging era. 

VERDICT: Don't let this cactus flower pass by your you-know-what.  Swing down to Westside Theater for this rollicking good time.  Buy tickets here. 

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist now accepting new clients in New York City.  He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve," currently available at Amazon.com. For more information about scheduling an appointment, please email him at [email protected].

1 comment:

  1. I adore the film starring Goldie Hawn and Ingrid Bergman - one of my favorites. I'd go see this just for Maxwell Caulfield, who still makes my raspberry swirl.