By Barry Reszel
An all-star cast of Chicagoland musical theatre talent, channeling the strength of a beloved colleague whose life was tragically taken in an auto accident two weeks before, triumphantly opened their production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown to cheers and tears, Sept. 21.
The regional premiere of this 2010 Broadway musical (book by Jeffrey Lane, music andlyrics by David Yazbek) is based on the 1988 film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar. It’s a farcical tale about a group of fantastically interconnected women in Madrid whose relationships with men lead to a riotous 48 hours of love, confusion, passion and attempted homicide via Valium-laced gazpacho. A full plot summary and production history may be read here.
The Theatre at the Center production is headlined by a powerhouse distaff quintet. Jeff winner Cory Goodrich is a brilliant pro’s pro as commercial actress and mistress-to-Ivan, Pepa. Jeff winner Hollis Resnick shines as the Ivan’s crazy ex-wife, Lucia. Jeff winner Summer Naomi Smart is as funny as she is gorgeous portraying Pepa’s neurotic best friend, the sexy and promiscuous Candela. Dina DiCostanzo is a riot as the morose, young Morticia Addams-esque, Marisa. And Colette Todd is a joy as feminist lawyer-turned-Ivan’s-latest-catch, Paulina.
But the stage talent doesn’t stop with these five .
Jeff nominees Larry Adams as philandering actor Ivan and Nathan Gardner as his son Carlos have comedic timing and vocal chops enviable to men on most professional stages. Eric Lewis is an excellent terrorist.
These talents are backed by a full, rich ensemble (Kayla Kennedy as Cristina and George Andrew Wolff, the emergency replacement as Taxi Driver, particularly sparkle). They’re well directed by William Pullinsi and exceptionally well choreographed by Danny Herman.
In fact it’s terrific dance and Spanish flavor meshing with ridiculous talent that makes this On the Verge… a particular delight. This newbie to regional theatre has some staying power unseen by Broadway critics whose words halted its run at less than 100 performances. And its requirement for tight comic timing, salsa-inspired dance, strong vocal capabilities and Spanish accents necessitates the kind of casting a professional house can provide.
Translated: this show won’t be showing up at anyone’s nearby community theatre anytime soon; and if it does, beware. So make it to Munster for this production.
All this is not to say Verge is perfect. At times it trades frenetic for deep, slapstick for humor, sex for love. And there are pieces that could benefit from a good edit. A prime example is “The Chase/Marisa’s Dream” in the second act, which serves the dual purpose of bringing characters to a pivotal scene at a different location while showing off DiCostanzo‘s considerable, lovely dance talents. That said, it needs to be a good two minutes shorter.
While everything written above this paragraph is meant to help patrons decide whether this production is worth their entertainment dollars (it is), there’s a deeper reason for area musical theatre aficionados to see this show: To intimately connect to the legacy of national and Chicagoland musical theatre icon Bernie Yvon in this, his last show.
Because regardless of religious upbringing, theological beliefs or spiritual practice, patrons should realize this cast knows Yvon is on stage with them. It’s been made clear in their Facebook posts, even clearer at the opening, where it took celestial inspiration (and unmatched professionalism) to make it through the finale. Audiences should relish his presence in their performances.
As for the final song itself, the lovely “Shoes from Heaven” is this heroic cast’s nightly reminder to keep on…
“And if the storm should come tomorrow, and all our dreams wash out to sea, before the thunder drowns our voices, come sit close and talk to me, come sit close and talk to me.
And in a moment love may vanish and turn to ashes suddenly. At least until that moment finds us, hold me tight and talk to me, hold me tight and talk to me.
And the moon is up there laughing in a crazy sky, and the laughing is the music that I follow. ‘Cause the moon is still a lunatic and so am I. So I’ll keep on dancing, so I’ll keep on…
No matter where this road will lead me, maybe into his arms or into hell, I’ll walk the road in shoes from heaven. Say a prayer and wish me well, say a prayer and wish me well.
Some day your world may go to pieces. You’ll feel you’re lost and falling free. And if you ask me I’ll fall with you. So take my hand and talk to me, take my hand and talk…”
The link to a memorial established in the memory of Bernie Yvon is here. Please visit to make a comment and a contribution if able.
Performances for “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” at Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Ind.are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm; and some Thursday and Saturday matinees, through Oct. 12. Tickets range from $40 to $44 with discounts available for groups of 11 or more. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 219-836-3255. Additional information is available at www.theatreatthecenter.com.