‘BitchSlap!’ — The Truth and the Legend (Solares Hill)

‘BitchSlap!’ — The Truth and the Legend (Solares Hill)

Posted Sun, Mar 1, 2009 in Reviews

The costumes were glamorous, the makeup was glorious and the stage lights genuinely captured the glitz of old Hollywood. Opening night of “BitchSlap!” at Waterfront Playhouse was as authentic as it was aesthetic in the charming theater by the sea. Equally charming were the three larger-than-life stars who played legendary divas Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and gossip guru Hedda Hopper.

Vanessa McCaffrey, “the only biologically valid female in the cast,” played Hopper brilliantly and mediated the scenes with pompous precision. Everyone was dressed in black and white and dripping with diamonds, and the facial expressions were exaggerated to perfection. Christopher Peterson, a sultry staple at La Te Da, portrayed Miss Bette Davis with over-the-top arrogance and more than a pinch of bitchiness. With her chin in the air and crowned in cigarette smoke, she delivered her lines with expert ease as she constantly battled her nemesis, Miss Joan Crawford. Played by another pillar of the La Te Da empire, Randy Roberts, Crawford was candidly catty yet more distinguished in her plight to patronize. The two stars quarreled over their acting ability and their fanfare and their catfights were classics of candor.

In recreating the filming of their famous “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” the lights went dim, the screen behind the stars flashed to blue and their silhouettes stole the show. Those scenes were the most enjoyable and admirable due to the lighting genius of David Bird and set design by the talented Michael Boyer.

We were hooked instantly with a montage of old clips edited perfectly with powerful bitch slaps separating the snap shots. A mini movie on a major screen enraptured the audience, which laughed at the timeless footage threaded together by smacks and bitchy glares. Divas they were and divas they remain, thanks to the direction of Darrin Hagen who also wrote the 75-minute play. There is no intermission and at times the dialogue runs its course between outbursts and punch lines. There are no set or costume changes either, but the elaborate vintage gowns are impressive enough to hold their own.

Wednesday night’s red-carpet event was followed by a party catered by Jennifer Cornell and the White Street Bistro.

“BitchSlap!” is playing at Waterfront through March 7 with an earlier-than-usual curtain call of 7 p.m.

For more information, call the box office at 294-5015. Tickets are $35 except for closing night when they are $40 and include another party with a scrumptious spread following the performance.

According to insiders, the play is already in talks to be resurrected next year, due to early rave reviews.

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