This review of Mel Schwartz Sleeps With Mae West at The Cutting Room was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Mel Schwartz Sleeps With Mae West
Book, Music & Lyrics by Ginger Reiter
Music Arrangements by Ike Reeves
The Cutting Room
44 East 32nd Street
New York, New York 10010
Mel Schwartz Sleeps With Mae West takes place over the course of a single night in North Miami Beach, Florida in 1986. Mel Schwartz (Jef Canter), who is not Jewish, wears a wig and has an enormous penile implant. He is trying to convince Marla, the "skinny little boney-assed whore from Philadelphia" whose rent he pays, to visit him for a booty call on an off-night outside of his scheduled appointments. When she turns him down, he calls his two friends, Lester (Tony Rossi) and Milty (David R. Gordon) to see if they can set him up or be his wingman at bars. These three friends, who regularly meet for breakfast at Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House Restaurant on Collins Avenue in Sunny Isles Beach, are past their prime. Milty is still married to a controlling, jealous wife named Ruthy (Danielle Nichole), who listens in on his calls and dominates his life, even to the point of having thrown his illegitimate son Mark out of their home 20 years ago. Lester, who has many prior marriages, eventually tries to set up his ex-wife Liz (Sheba Mason) with Mel. Fearing her Sugar Daddy may cut off her funds, Marla changes her mind and drops by Mel's apartment but Mel is no longer interested because he thinks he has a chance to hook up with Liz. When Liz eventually discovers her ex-husband is trying to set her up with Mel Schwartz instead of Mel Schneider, her reaction is so bad, Mel decides to commit suicide after watching The Tonight Show one last time.
Mel, now depressed, forgets the first rule of prostitution, which is that you are not just paying for sex but for unconditional acceptance. He gets into dangerous territory when he asks Marla for her honest opinion of him. In return, Mel gives Marla enough money to pay her rent for a year. Marla confesses she thinks Mel is "disgusting, slobbery, and old" and sometimes even "repulsive" but on the plus side, Marla told him he has a really nice nose and a good penile implant compared to the others she has seen in South Florida. She also said, "You're a Democrat - that's a really nice thing." Since Mel has no interest in sleeping with her anymore, Marla confesses she is seeing a therapist regarding why she feels more beautiful when she's in bed with ugly men. Other confessions follow until, at one point, Marla recognizes Ruthie's voice on the telephone. Many questions are raised including how Ruthie would have come to know a prostitute from Philadelphia and how Mel could have been so oblivious for the past five years. Eventually, push comes to shove and a lot of people are threatening to kill other people. At that point, there are only two available paths - tell your story on The Jerry Springer Show or sweep your dirty laundry under the rug and never speak of it again.
This musical has a number of songs that are very well-written and enjoyable to listen to. First Act songs included "A Good Night's Sleep," "Boney-Assed Whore," "Get Out!," "Loved You At The Salad Bar," "Shattered Ego," and "Song Of Bigots." Second Act songs included "Shtupping Your Daughter," "Big Boy," "What's Wrong With Me," "Like Climbing Uphill," "Call It Love," "Dirty Shame," and "Shake It Off." Even though the show is set in 1986, the book is relevant and touches on contemporary issues. The cast is talented and the play even has a happy ending. Just before Mel pulls the trigger, his ex-wife Jeanie (Ginger Reiter) calls looking for her own "no-strings-attached" one-night stand. Jeanie, who just left a costume party dressed as Mae West boosts Mel's self-confidence by reminding him that his kids adore him, that he once saved a family of four ice-skaters, and that she misses having his hairy arms wrapped around her. Reconciliation is impossible through since Mel is reminded by his ex-wife that he is a dirty, untrustworthy, philandering dog, which he is forced to admit.
If you are looking for a light-hearted, amusing musical, I recommend you consider seeing Mel Schwartz Meets Mae West, which plays at The Cutting Room through December 30, 2017. Tickets cost $50.00 and there is a $20.00 food and drink minimum. Call 845-598-2850 for reservations. If you miss it this year, I hear the show may be back for an extended run in the Spring.