4/2/2022        THE PRETTY PANTS BANDIT                                Georgia Ensemble Theatre

FAREWELL MY TROUSERS

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So I’m sitting in my seat, half-roasted on lukewarm Monster Ultra, hoping the usher lets me take off my face mask, when this dame walks onto the stage.   She is brown-haired and diamond-eyed, most of her short stature composed of perfect legs and keep-back attitude.  She has a singing voice that penetrates my caffeine-soaked brain and warns me that I better pay attention or else I’d lose my dignity. Meaning, my trousers.

 

It's Miami, it’s 1933, and it’s hot enough to soft-soap a hard-boiled critic.  And I’m about to lose my heart to this pipsqueak femme with a fatale attitude and a take-no-prisoners style.  It’s The Pretty Pants Bandit, a new musical by Atlanta Actors Chase Peacock and Jessica de Maria, finding life on the G.E.T. stage, and conspiring to sidestep into Roswell history.  And there’s nothing I can do to stop them.  Nor do I want to.

 

Late one night (or is it early one morning?) a barefoot white woman stumbles into the (mostly) black establishment of Lawrence and Kat Walker, sibling entrepreneurs of drink and victuals.  She claims to be called Marie Baker, but could be Mrs. Rose Durante, wife of {Deleted by the Spoiler Cops}.  I suspect a third alias, that of Anna Dvorak (no relation to the New World songsmith.  Maybe), actor extraordinaire, songbird to be exalted.

 

Faster than you can say “Let me have ALL the gin,” Marie has a gang, and they are hitting certain mercantile establishments, all with shady secrets, all with more money than their ledgers reveal.  On a whim, Marie forces the clerks to drop trou, for reasons left to conjecture.  I choose to believe “They have it coming!”

Meanwhile, a Miami reporter, another female, Gloria Rowe (aka Megan Zhang) in an exclusively make preserve, makes Marie a folk hero, detailing her exploits and begrudgingly admiring her sass and independence.  But Miami’s Chief of Police, H. Leslie Quigg, whose name suggests a history of a childhood on the receiving end of playground bullying, has turned the tables and wants this Bandit brought down, even if it’s on the orders of {Deleted by the Spoiler Cops}.

 

So, this neo-noir tale set in the dark light of the Miami summer sun explodes across the set like the hot kiss of snub-nose revolver.  An ensemble of high-stepping dancers swarms the stage like synchronized spiders, adding to the ambience and to the story.  If the music itself has not a trace of Miami Rumba or even Big Band Danzon, it nevertheless serves the story well, and I would be a mook if I said it didn’t work.  In fact, most of the songs sound great!

 

Director James Donadio, MD Alli Reinhardt, Set Designer Kat Conley, and Lighting Designer D. Conner McVey create a look, a pace, a sound, a palette, an atmosphere that brings out my inner Raymond Chandler, that helps introduce me to the writing talents of de Maria and Peacock to augment my already rabid fan-boy appreciation of their acting and singing past.

 

Mrs. Rose Durante was real.   H. Leslie Quigg was real.  The others maybe not so much.  But Peacock and de Maria have given Marie a back story that suggests a life before her fame, and a resolution that explains her compete disappearance from history.  And in the process tell the story of a heart-stoppingly beautiful bandit portrayed by a breath-takingly talented actress.

 

Now, how soon must I wait before pulling my pants back up? 

 

     -- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com    @bk_rudy    #GETPrettyPantsBandit)