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New York Theater

Ashley Montana Goes Ashore In The Caicos or: What Am I Doing Here?

If you're familiar with Roger Rosenblatt from his television commentary or magazine essays, you will recognize the drollery inherent in this collection of skits billed as "almost a play," highlighted by the talents of Bebe Neuwirth.

Rosenblatt is an undeniably observant and witty wordsmith, and his brief, widely ranging vignettes feature expressions of progressive politics, genuinely wistful lamentations about aging, and the odd musing about the media. When the bits work, such as a boot-camp-style training session for the press, it's like watching a good New Yorker cartoon brought to life. When they don't, it's because Rosenblatt tends to overintellectualize in a prosaic, and prose-oriented, manner.

It was clearly difficult for Rosenblatt to come up with his title. His solution, a reference to the cover of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, relates only to one segment and underscores the essential weakness of the evening: There is no attempt to present any sort of linkage between the bits. Instead, Rosenblatt and the Flea present a random collection of elements, including song parodies, mock speeches, and neo-vaudeville. Though percussionist Christopher Lipton's light drumming in the background helps the energy, the result is an evening that is less than the sum of its parts and drags toward the end.

Director Jim Simpson's cast is totally dominated by Neuwirth, whose precise timing, keen physicality, and easy charisma are dramatic in this small space. Neuwirth is so vital that after a short while, the entire show dips drastically when she is not on. Jeffrey DeMunn, Jenn Harris, and James Waterston can't compensate, though DeMunn has a certain world-weary quality that is appealing. Kyle Chepulis, often a creative set designer, here settles for creating a backdrop of the titular swimsuit model plastered on a giant venetian blind.

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