One of the pleasures of having this job as critic of stagehands is that once in a while a crew will stand out in their performances with an unrelenting force, charm, and charisma that permeates every cell of one's body. This was certainly the case a few weeks ago when I had the honor of reviewing the property crew of Cosby Albert's tragicomedy, ‘White Trash Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,' a play based loosely on Pedro Almodovar's well-known movie, ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.' The play was presented in three acts at the Gilmond Greyson's Theatre-in-the Round at the Sutton Civic Theatre in Riverdale.
Indeed, if you were fortunate enough to catch the efforts of seasoned property masters, Trixie Martini, Gina Belle Morely, and Cynthia Clydecooper, in action during the run of ‘White Trash Women,' then I need say nothing more. However, should you have missed this work of ‘prop poetry in motion,' then I suggest you keep your eyes open for future works in which this talented backstage threesome may lend their skills, as there are rumors in the industry that they intend to work together again soon—be still my silly heart!
As the lights first brightened the stage of the first scene of ‘White Trash Women,' and the audience peered into the apartment of the character of Pepa, evidences of Trixie Martini's prop work could be detected. The tangled, drooping telephone cord, the strategically placed Beanie Weenie can, and the crumpled beer cans scattered about the floor in a dominant stage-left position were dead give-aways. Of course, Ms. Martini is no stranger to the peripheries of the stage. Her maternal grandmother, Leta Cooley Lord, worked as an usher for the famed Lyceum Theatre in Brooklyn. Leta worked there until it was discovered that she was leading folks out of the theatre instead of showing them to their seats. Her grandfather, Ed Lee Thompson dated the legendary Broadway actress, Katharine Cornell until she caught on. Martini herself first leaped to fame when she worked for the late Stewart Gilly on Moss Hart's ‘Light Up the Sky,' in 1986. The story goes that the overnight fame and fortune that was Martini's after she had won a coveted Prop Award known as the ‘Stanley,' for her work on ‘Light Up the Sky,' overwhelmed her. Martini ended up seeking refuge in napping, and for two years she dated a mannequin. "He was," she has said of her defunct romance, "the ultimate prop." Her past personal demons behind her, Martini bounced back into her backstage work with an intensity that has stunned audiences.
First of all, Martini's crucial intermission prop change earned her a standing ovation (at least from the folks who were scurrying away from her and the ever-present can of Raid bug spray that she flaunted in a curious attempt to endear herself to the audience). Appearing quite skittish at the start of the changes, Martini kept darting over and across the stage randomly selecting props, trying in vain to act as if her frantic actions were the result of some carefully choreographed movements. Her helter-skelter manner of bolting, lurching, and groping, created an air of excitement that will undoubtedly go unrivaled in the history of community theatres. Her confusion was refreshing, contagious, and nerve-wracking – which is what the Sutton Civic Theatre is all about. Quirky as she was, Martini's outstanding prop performance will surely earn her another ‘Stanley' nomination.
Riverdale beautician and stage-hand veteran, Gina Belle Morely, brought to ‘White Trash Women' an excitement that bordered on mania at times. The audience seemed entranced by her rabid perkiness and they simply adored the intriguing way she scooped up ‘True Story' magazines and guns, and whisked spittoons out of a broken window. Her table-setting technique gave new meaning to the word ‘centerpiece.' Also, when Morley had to plug in a radio during the second act change, her distaste for the task was apparent as she searched needlessly for the outlet—causing the audience to hold its breath in anticipation. Morely's finest moment came when she had to hurriedly gather some tortilla chips that had accidentally fallen to the floor. There was a pleasing roar from the crowd as she uttered her now-famous line, "Let the chips fall where they may." She has demonstrated a definite knack for working with props and a little-known fact is that she shows signs of becoming a cracker-jack director. Her rising star on the circuit promises to see the lady succeed in all she does. Look for her in the future as another sure ‘Stanley' winner and perchance even in the director's chair – or lurking about nearby.
Finally, Cynthia Clydecooper, who rounded out the spectacular team of Martini, Morely, and Clydecooper, produced many of the props used in ‘White Trash Women' from her personal inventory. Her Flintstone glasses were truly one of the show's highlights—and only two were broken. Clydecooper's prop work on the play was splendid. She wisely left off some props at inopportune times to keep the actors on their toes. She had clearly severed all ties with reality and her wackiness lent a spiritual support to the play. Her bit with the Stockholm newspapers was truly magnificent, and I will go out on a limb and predict that audiences will be talking about it for years. For you trivia buffs, Clydecooper is the lady responsible for the butter in that scene Brando did in ‘Last Tango in Paris.' Her experience was evident and she will no doubt be garnering a ‘Stanley' herself soon.
As I wrap up this piece, let me leave you with these words: Go see Martini, Morely, and Clydecooper in anything—ANYTHING. For as long as these three are BEHIND the scenes, you will not be disappointed.