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No Way To Treat A Lady

Certainly, it's a gem. Intimate, friendy, comfortable and affordable. My sort of  place.

I had a particular interest in seeing what Neil  Marcus would make of  directing his first major work at the Arts Theatre, only months after leaving the Jermyn Street Theatre, where he established his reputation for innovative, high quality work.

He has selected  NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY  a musical play  based on a novel by William Goldman, the screenwriter of, amongst other  things, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID  and  ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. 

Douglas J  Cohen the book writer, lyricist and composer  has crafted a work of art  which maintains a cracking pace, keeps us guessing whether the likeable villain will survive, and satisfies our desire for intrigue in the beautifully handled relationships.

I can't think of any other contemporary musical which offers so much. It reminds me of CITY OF ANGELS in that it is packed with great dialogue and a twisting, turning, plot but in this play, you never lose the thread of it. Which isn't to say you don't wriggle a bit.

Morris Brummel (Paul Brown) is definitely not New York's answer to Beau Brummel. In fact he's a shoot yourself in the foot type of detective who lives with his mother - the very jewish mother Flora (Joan Savage), who dutifully packs his lunch, expects him home for bed before ten,  and  savages him at every opportunity, except when she accepts blame for  him being a cop, by saying she should never have bought him a cowboy suit when he was six.

For all her faults, Flora can be my mother any day.

Morris admits to us in song - I Need A Life, but this is mirrored in song by the villain of the piece, Kit Gill (Tim Flavin). He too has a mother  problem which won't be resolved in a hurry because she's dead and is mocking him from the grave because he hasn't achieved  stardom on stage, as she did.

Kit's way out is, by assuming some brilliant disguises, to insinuate himself into the apartments of a succession of unsuspecting ladies who are dispatched to the theatre in the sky, where presumably they meet his mother.

Morris and Kit are drawn together as the detective seeks to solve the crimes and Kit seeks to obtain the detective's help in getting him some good reviews for the murders on the front page of  The New York Times. Tim Flavin plays his many parts to perfection. He has an evilness which Jack Nickolson might cherish and an opportunity to display it. He is a murdering curate, a murdering flamenco dancer (in a cameo sketch with Carmella (Donna McKechnie), and a murderer in drag who I would have fancied myself if it hadn't been for the give away of the weightlifter's thighs.

Linking the two men is the delectable Sarah Stone (Joanna Riding). She is an up town girl - drawn to the decency of the bumbling detective who eventually takes the initiative in consummating their relationship. She sings beautifully and makes every man in the audience wish he was with the NYPD. But how will she cope with Morris's mother and how will she escape the evil designs of the killer who's on her trail because he can't get his name in  the papers.

The interplay between Morris, his mother Flora, and Sarah is brilliant. All the ends are tied up, except one. What about the killer?

Oh God, I can't go on. Find out for yourself.

A wonderful evening.

(John Timperley)

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