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Dirty Blonde 

A play about Mae West could have used more Mae and a less contrived plot

Wednesday, May 16 2001
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Claudia Shear's Dirty Blonde is blowsy, empty Broadway fare from the first scene, but all the critics love it, and the only reason I can find for this is that Mae West still holds a powerful sway over our collective imagination. "She's like the movie-star equivalent of Venice," one character says. "There's no place in the world you can say, "You know, it's a little like Venice.'" True enough. And as long as Dirty Blonde sticks close to Mae and her inimitable lines, it's fun. "Why, if you follow a regular program of colonics," she tells a teenage fan in a restaurant, "when ya go to the bathroom, it'll just smell like hot soup!" And, of course: "I made myself platinum, but I was born a dirty blonde." Shear does a decent job imitating West and sings a few rousing songs. But the concept -- "conceived by Claudia Shear and [director] James Lapine" -- dominates and kills the script, and the story of a pair of modern New Yorkers who bond over their worship of West is mostly hollow junk. Lapine and Shear admit that the show exists mainly for the sake of its final scene, but I'm afraid the image of two Maes kissing is not clever or scandalous enough to excuse it.

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