Opened Feb. 3, 2008, Post Street Theatre, San Francisco
Shepherd’s charms can’t enliven bleak Widow
Two stars (Light, long)
Cybill Shepherd is moonlighting these days in the thee-ah-tuh.
The movie and TV star, famous for being blonde and beautiful, is doing a brave thing by taking on Curvy Widow, a one-woman show by Bobby Goldman, who points out in her program bio that she is the curvy widow.
Shepherd’s fame has always been curious to me. There’s no doubt about her beauty – she has always had that. Still does. And she’s got warmth and humor, but neither in abundance. And as for acting talent, well, I’ve never been quite convinced that she’s convinced she’s an actor.
She has done good serious work (Taxi Driver, The Last Picture Show), but her forte, as we learned on TV with “Moonlighting,” is light comedy.
Alone on a stage for 90 minutes, Shepherd is somewhat adrift. She’s working hard, and she certainly has charm. But she’s not a good enough or charming enough actor to compensate for Goldman’s aggressively charmless script.
After its premiere in Atlanta last fall, Curvy Widow has apparently undergone serious revision after critics savaged it. From what we saw Sunday night at San Francisco’s Post Street Theatre, there’s not much to savage. The play is hardly the disaster the Atlanta critics suggested. Nor is there much to savor.
Shepherd only occasionally bobbled lines, and after a wobbly start, she warmed up and threw herself into the role of a 57-year-old widow grieving two relationships: her 20-plus-year marriage and a just-ended six-year affair with a married man.
Being a hugely successful businesswoman with multiple business and homes in New York and Vero Beach, Fla., simply isn’t enough for our widow. She needs a man, and she needs him now, so she turns to Match.com and Yahoo! Personals to hook herself up (“no tattoos, piercings or walkers”). She fixes herself with the moniker Curvy Widow, and she’s off and running toward the title of cyber skank (a word she uses late in the play).
The character of the widow is, in many ways, an older version of Samantha in “Sex and the City.” This is a woman who proudly owns her sexuality and her lust for sex. She’s a powerful businessperson who deals with the world on her own terms (as snooty and as close-minded as those terms may sometimes be).
But here’s the thing: She’s not terribly likable. She’s incredibly self-centered, and her journey, rather than opening her up, seems to close her up even more, and we’re supposed to join in her self-congratulations for having “evolved.”
Goldman can write a snappy line (“Men 25 to 35 are like having a snack… but I want more than a Frito-Lay”), and she’s not afraid of being frank and honest. But this widow is crass, judgmental, privileged, whiny and so stuck on herself that the rest of the world is shut out of her view.
The bottom line is that I just didn’t care if she dated 65 men in four months. I didn’t care that she fired seven gynecologists on her way to finding one who could fix her up with a miracle cure for vaginal dryness.
I just plain didn’t care – and not caring for 90 minutes feels like not caring for three hours.
Shepherd really does try hard to make something of the script. She hits all her marks, comes across tough and sexy, and establishes a nice rapport with the audience. She looks great in David C. Woolard’s costumes, and she survives with dignity intact, even when Goldman’s script makes her extol the virtues of her beautiful behind.
Director Scott Schwartz surrounds Shepherd with projections (by Michael Clark) and silly special effects, but there’s just no disguising the fact that Goldman’s script is a tirade insisting that women can be tough and unlikable and loved if that’s what they want.
No arguments here. But just don’t tell me that’s entertainment.
Curvy Widow continues through March 9 at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post St., San Francisco. Tickets are $50-$75. Call 415-512-7770 or visit www.ticketmaster.com for information.