''More To Love: A Big Fat Comedy,'' ''Duet!,'' and more are reviewed by EW

Now Playing on Stage

New on Broadway

More to Love: A Big Fat Comedy Somewhere between a pretty good stand-up act and a failed sitcom lies this novelty production written by and starring Rob Bartlett — principal writer-performer on radio’s Imus in the Morning — as a 40-year-old, not-as-fat-as-he-thinks-he-is suburban guy who riffs while cleaning out his atmospherically junk-stuffed garage. Dana Reeve (Christopher’s wife) and Joyce Van Patten add minor celebrity value with small roles as his wife and agent, respectively. But it’s Bartlett’s gently funny baby-boomer observations that hold the show together. Also his fat jokes. B
— Lisa Schwarzbaum

Off Broadway

Chaim’s Love Song ”What, am I fussy?” Chaim Shotsky (Allen Bloomfield) rants. Fussy? Try loud, crotchety, and about as subtle as a jackhammer. But for all his kvetching, he’s the heart of this lilting family drama. Cobbled together on a sparse stage at the teensy Raymond J. Greenwald Theatre, the play transcends its humble surroundings and delivers a spunky, sometimes sugary, but always heartfelt tale of a retired Brooklynite who befriends a wide-eyed Iowan (Kathleen Marshall) at a New York City park. Just don’t try to pronounce the title, characters warn, without gargling first. B+
— Clarissa Cruz

Collected Stories A sort of All About Eve tale about a venerable writer and her model-gorgeous protegee, Donald Margulies’ play careens toward a predictable ending. The eager young thing (Lorca Simons) piles on the slavish devotion, then betrays her mentor (Uta Hagen) by ripping off her life story. What makes this a true occasion, however, is the presence of the indomitable Hagen, who forcefully bellows at the parasitical traitor such lines as ”You’re a hitchhiker!” B
— Degen Pener

Communicating Doors In Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy-thriller, three women avoid their own murders by leaping through time via a magic door in a London hotel suite and rewriting their histories. The production is as forgettable and full of holes as a thin slice of Swiss cheese, though Mary-Louise Parker — who last set Off Broadway aflame in How I Learned to Drive and is just about the most exciting thing on the New York stage these days — employs all of her unpredictable, arrhythmic charms as the vulnerable British dominatrix Poopay. It’s as if her bustier can barely contain her heart. And Ayckbourn’s old-fashioned-in-a-bad-way farce can barely contain her. C+
— JC

Dinah Was With a lesser cast, Oliver Goldstick’s bio of the late blues great Dinah Washington would be routine. But with Lillias White in the lead it’s an energizing play with breezy music (”What a Diff’rence a Day Makes,” ”Come Rain or Come Shine,” and other hits). White, a Tony winner for The Life, took over the role of the tough-talking, hard-drinking, pill-popping Washington from Yvette Freeman, and she makes it her own. Whenever White unleashes her sensational voice, Dinah Was comes alive. B+
— William Stevenson

Duet! Give the adobe theatre company points for originality. Duet!, a ’50s pastiche that originated Off Off Broadway a year ago, doesn’t lack for inventive staging (a pantomimed roller-coaster ride, the surprise appearance of an owl). But the plot, in which a pretty blond (Erin Quinn Purcell) falls for a second-rate singer (Gregory Jackson) who has an unusual penchant for frogs, is awfully slight. Purcell and Jackson have only themselves to blame, because they wrote and directed the show. And even though it runs just 75 minutes, this nostalgia trip could do without the dancing-trees number. C+
— WS

Impossible Marriage The sixth play to unite the talents of writer Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart) and actress Holly Hunter makes it painfully clear that at this point, they’re bringing out the worst in each other. Hunter’s weirdly mannered, arch performance as a hugely pregnant woman given to fey mood swings, oracular pronouncements, and ill-conceived plans to derail her sister’s wedding is an unfortunately perfect match for Henley’s brand of mossy, overdrawn Southern-gothic whimsy. See it only if you still mourn the cancellation of Evening Shade. C-
— Mark Harris

The Mystery of Irma Vep First performed by the Ridiculous Theatrical Company in 1984, avant-gardist Charles Ludlam’s gleeful send-up of Rebecca and other movies is enjoying an uproarious revival courtesy of director-star Everett Quinton. He and Stephen DeRosa nimbly juggle eight roles, male and female, and their dazzlingly quick offstage costume changes give the show an exuberant, frenetic pace. Even more entertaining are the overwrought acting, ridiculous English and Egyptian accents, creepy sight gags, and delightfully affected dialogue. John Lee Beatty’s sets and William Ivey Long’s costumes add just the right over-the-top gothic ambiance. Ludlam, who died in 1987, must be rolling in his grave with laughter. A
— WS

Wit If you’re expecting a comedy, you should be aware that the title refers to a poetic device employed by the 17th-century poet John Donne and that Margaret Edson’s moving play stars Kathleen Chalfant (Angels in America) as a 50-year-old scholar dying of ovarian cancer, ruminating on salvation, and rethinking her life while undergoing a series of doctor-ordered humiliations. Chalfant gives a harrowing, shockingly honest performance, and director Derek Anson Jones does it justice with his sterile staging (a lonely hospital bed, a series of sliding curtains). Only one quibble: The use of a goofy team of doctors as comic relief seems desperate and unnecessary. But that amounts to just a few bad rhymes in an otherwise terrific work of poetry. A-
— JC


The Blue Room Playwright David Hare’s sly sexual daisy chain is London’s hottest ticket right now, thanks to a steamy star turn by Nicole Kidman. In this loose adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1896 erotic play La Ronde, directed by Sam Mendes (Cabaret), Kidman and costar Iain Glen (London’s 1996 musical The Return of Martin Guerre) play five different pairs of often scantily clad lovers. The chameleonlike performances are convincing, Kidman’s underwear even better, Glen’s naked cartwheels the best. Closes Oct. 31; New York opening is scheduled for November. B+
— Elizabeth Gleick

Los Angeles

The Nellie Olesons Circumcision, butt-flavored gum, deaf lesbians, homophobia. Clearly, nothing is off limits for this raucous comedy quartet named for the obnoxious priss from Little House on the Prairie. The sketches may border on the sophomoric, but they’re also twisted enough to keep the audience happily offended for a good 80 minutes. Closes Nov. 1. B
— Ruth Kennison

New Jersey

Gypsy One of the all-time great Mama Roses, Broadway diva Betty Buckley, drives this first-rate revival of the 1959 Jule Styne/ Stephen Sondheim musical classic at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J. Buckley’s magnificent performance as the ultimate stage mother has deservedly drawn comparisons to the role’s originator, Ethel Merman; Buckley employs her powerfully resonant voice throughout, and her climactic ”Rose’s Turn” is a knockout. Leading the strong supporting cast is Deborah (formerly Debbie) Gibson, who convincingly turns mousy Louise into legendary stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. Though the backdrops could be prettier, this is a Gypsy for the ages. Closes Oct. 25. A-
— WS