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Open: 02/19/09- Close: 02/22/09 Land Of The Babydolls
Reviewed for By: Ashley Griffin


Jeffre Moss ©2020  
What The Rocky Horror Picture Show did for B-sci fi movies, and Clue did for the classic Parker Brothers board game, Zenbaby Theatre’s Land of the Babydolls does for the infamous book (and movie) Valley of the Dolls. This is by far the most entertaining new musical so far this year, and a must see for anyone who enjoys comedy, pathos, musicals, or camp in any form.

What makes Land of the Babydolls work is the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but instead uses the camp genre to not only entertain, but tell a great, and surprisingly timely tale. This silly 60’s comedy is a twisted tale of a girl, Lana, who leaves the comfort of her Vermont home to find herself in the big city of New York. She, along with new gal pals Janette and Stevie enter the “land of the babydolls” – the dark underworld of the entertainment industry rife with drugs, alcohol, and serious personality disorders. At heart it is a story of the downfall of the “me” generation, which, in the wake of the current economic crisis makes the repercussions suffered as a result of the characters frivolous life decisions feel all too poignant.

Jeffre Moss ©2020  
The Zenbaby Theatre Company’s mission is to have an avenue for new plays and unique artistic discovery though theatrical improvisation, dance, and newly developed music. This is a theater company that lives up to the highest expectations such a mission statement would create. The methods employed are indeed unique. Lauren Cavanaugh knows exactly what her audience expects, and she gives it to them, in a way they could never have predicted. She uses many experimental styles incredibly simply, and effectively. For example, when in drug induced stupors from their “babydoll” pills, the characters are attacked by actual babydolls. Ms. Cavanaugh is also one of the book writers (along with Kristine Hipps), and the script is a solid, and hysterical adaptation of the source material, that reminds one of the brilliance of another off-Broadway send-up; Ruthless. Although the show is, decidedly too long (the first act ran an hour and a half, and the entire show ran a little over two and a half hours), and some of the scenes repeat plot points, or ideas that have already been stated, the script, and direction manage to create a cinematic quality, with fast intercuts between scenes, and even intercuts between characters. They manage to tell the entire story, in a solid way. A difficult feat for such a complicated plot. Somehow the moving, poignant moments from the film are still moving and poignant, only your falling out of your chair laughing at the same time. The atmosphere in the theater was spot on from the word go. The space has a dilapidated bohemian feeling, which was highlighted by the fun lighting design, complete with Chinese lanterns. Fun retro music played before the show, and the audience began an impromptu sing a long. This led to occasional full on audience “shout outs” a la Rocky Horror thorough out the evening, which only made the show more fun.

All of the actors are fantastic. It is impossible to single any out – they are all deserving of a good paragraph. The costumes were marvelous, especially the numerous cheap wigs which added the perfect touch to the evening.  Costume Designer Jillian Tully says in her bio that she is “thrilled to see so much of her own clothing in Land of the Babydolls.” As such, Ms. Tully has the decidedly coolest wardrobe north of the Village. The set was simple, minimal perfection, and the music (especially “Have Sex With Me”) was terrific (though Stevie had possibly one two many songs.)

Land of the Babydolls is that rare breed of new show that, created by relative unknowns has the potential to become a long running cult hit – the perfect show for a venue such as New World Stages. Zenbaby Theatre is a company to watch, and Land of the Babydolls is hands down a land to visit.  

Nicu's Spoon Theatre : 38 West 38th st. 5t floor