Eli Bolin Has No Friends

Eli Bolin. Photo credit: James Daniel
Eli Bolin. Photo credit: James Daniel

Announcing the entertaining, acclaimed Jacobean Feminist Revenge JANE ANGER, or The Lamentable Comedie of JANE ANGER, or that Cunning Woman, and also of Willy Shakespeare and his Peasant Companion, Francis, Yes and Also of Anne Hathaway (also a Woman) Who Tried Very Hard. 

Time of the Plague and Working from Home

We are in the time of the great plague in the late 17th century. William Shakespeare is working from home and focused on completing some of his most poetic, introspective, and grand works borne of afflatus. The street exit door is sealed and marked with an X by city officials to warn people that someone in the building had died from the plague. The only way into Shakespeare’s apartment is to climb up a drainpipe and enter through the window. The bard is about to experience a series of importunate visitors.

Cobbe portrait of Shakespeare posted on OpeningNight.Online
The Bard himself. Cobbe portrait of Shakespeare

The image of Shakespeare as the pensive, serious, phlegmatic British cognoscenti laboring over his verse is a historic verisimilitude in the imagination of gifted actor, raconteur, and playwright Talene Monahon. Her Wille Shakespeare (Michael Urie) is more a product akin to Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, but rather than slogging through tragedy, we revel in his vanity and self-absorbed purveying of fatuous flair, gallimaufry, insipid prose, and acerbic wit.

The Naughty Bard

Monahon’s Shakespeare is a lovable chauvinist and unabashed roué who dodges recriminations from his self-deprecating wife Ann Hathaway (Talene Monahon), and the rapier and snack-carrying mischievous Jane Anger (Amelia Workman). Anger will do almost anything to obtain Shakespeare’s signature on her written work for acceptance by a publisher but can do much with a pastry thanks to Willie’s narcissism. The antics of Willie’s sycophant, Micawber sidekick, and wannabe epigone Francis (Ryan Spahn) amplify the comedic energy and cadence as he seems incognizant of Jane’s plot or much else.

Clever Jane

Jane Anger is hilariously funny. Witticisms, cleverness, plays on words, malapropisms, and sparkling non sequitur rants abound along with a dash of the spirit of Monte Python and Mel Brooks, a touch of Abbott and Costello, and the cast’s superb timing that make it work. Low brow humor, double entendre, and inferences to the bard’s plagiarism and petty jealousy of contemporaries are deliciously delightful. Anachronistic humor gently reminded us that we live in the twenty-first century. The plague of 1665 seems to have been Covid 3 and the jokes flew seamlessly from the bard’s day to today. 

This is after all about a cunning woman, two in fact, who may have a way to give Willie his comeuppance. Their guile subtlety drives the plot as it evolves to frenetic humorous heights. You’ll need to see the play to discover Shakespeare’s denouement, but although I felt a little sorry for the guy, I laughed along with the audience until the end.

This live-streamed work was beautifully filmed and recorded. The music fit perfectly in support of the scenes and energy.

Jane Anger Cast

Jane Anger: Amelia Workman           
William Shakespeare: Michael Urie
Francis: Ryan Spahn                        
Anne Hathaway: Talene Monahon

Jane Anger Creative
Playwright: Talene Monahon       
Director: Chayes
Set Design: Joey Mendoza          
Costume Design: Andrea Hood
Light Design: Nic Vincent              
Original Music/Sound Design: Lindsay Jones
SFX Design: Matt Frew                
Fight Choreographer: Sean Michael Chin
Casting Director: Claire Yenson
Jane Anger Team
Production Stage Manager Michal V. Mendelson
Assistant Stage Manager: Brant Sennett
Producer: Jennifer Campos
Associate Producer: Pat Addiss
Managing Director: Liz Flemming
Press Rep: Spin Cycle PR

Runtime is about 80 minutes. No intermission.

JANE ANGER or The Lamentable Comedie of JANE ANGER, that Cunning Woman, and also of Willy Shakespeare and his Peasant Companion, Francis, Yes and Also of Anne Hathaway (also a Woman) Who Tried Very Hard streams June 14 – 26, Tuesday – Friday at 7pm, Saturday & Sunday at 5pm & 7pm.  Tickets are $15.50 for a single view or $22.50 for a 48-hour rental, available at www.JaneAngerPlay.com.

Mailing address:
Spin Cycle
114 East First Street #8
New York, NY  10009

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Rating
4.5/5

Eli Bolin Has No Friends at Feinsteins/54 Below is a great name for a show starring Emmy-nominated composer Eli Bolin who clearly has many friends! Tonight’s program featured a coterie of gifted artists including his wife and chanteuse Allison Posner. Bolin even showed us a picture of his wife and two children on an apple picking venture. As the show unwound, it was like a fun family reunion picnic of Saturday Night Live, Second City Television, and a dash of Uncle Floyd, where everyone takes turns showing what they can do to make everyone smile and better off than when they arrived.

Here is the amazing cast of tonight’s luminaries:

Ashley Blanchet (Waitress, Disney’s Frozen)
Ava Briglia (School of Rock, Matilda in Matilda the Musical)
Jake Ryan Flynn (Mrs. Doubtfire, Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
Julie Klausner (“Difficult People”)
Andrew Kober (BeetlejuiceSunday in the Park with George)
Chrissy Pardo (Eli Bolin Has No Friends)
Paula Pell (“Saturday Night Live,” “Girls 5eva”)
Shereen Pimentel (Maria in West Side Story, “John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch”)
Allison Posner (“The Magnificent Seven”)
Jed Resnick (FairviewAvenue Q)
Zuri Washington (Bat Out of Hell national tour)

Kudos to the production team! The show was live and live-streamed with great camera angles, closeups, sound, and lighting. During Covid times artists used live-streaming and produced videos that reached new technical heights to share their creative and artistic voices. Tonight’s performance took advantage of those tools. I thought of the many who would love to attend personally but are geographically or physically challenged to do so—now they can view comfortably from home and enjoy a joyous evening of mirth and music with the greatest talents.

Feinstein’s/54 Below was packed with an audience dining and chatting as they waited for the show to begin. Lights dimmed and Bolin emerged to introduce the show. He spoke about the varied inspirations for the songs like a series of personal letters, his musical productions, a bit of politics, relationships, and seemingly, life itself.

The first song was A Good Guy With a Gun, an interesting political statement about gun control citing the NRA as a terrorist organization (piano and vocals). Dan Pardo on keys with vocalist Jed Resnick.

Bolin’s songs ranged from gentle sentimentalism and raucous energy to plays on words and charming spoofs. After all, who sings about their dining preference for noodles and butter!

Bolin spoke about some of his other projects and introduced his next song, Grandma’s Got a Boyfriend with soloist Jake Ryan Flynn. Chrissie Pardo hates to make a scene at a restaurant because, as she sang I Just Want Macaroni. Julie Klausner sang the delightful Open Your Eyes, chronicling the relationship between the mad psychiatrist Hannibal and Agent Clarisse in Silence of the Lambs.

The song I Like Old Country, inspired by a letter written by a child named Derrick was sung by Zurie Washington who dramatically boosted the club’s energy with her flamboyant repartee. The Last Song of Eddie Scourge, from a new rock n’ roll Christmas musical by Bolin and Mike Pettry was performed by Allison Posner. It began poetically as a pensive, intimate “I don’t know what you need, you’re not there” to blasting the guilty party with “I won’t be here.”  

Next was a song from Bolin’s Hit Parade with Andrew Kober as soloist and Chrissie Pardo and Allison Posner on backup vocals. Come to the Monster Party was a comical spoof promising invitees the allure, danger and adventure of a party with no covid masks, fellow partygoers without vaccinations, and the Matrix movie playing without sound.

Jake Ryan Flynn and Ava Briglia performed My Favorite Time of Day about how modern teens maintain long-distance using their smartphones. From Bolin’s Found, A New Musical, When I Look into Your Eyes is a gentle, pensive song of love performed by Ashley Blanchet. Shereen Pimentel performed a lively song about tennis and furniture, The Brown and the Beige, from the cast album of Bolin’s Co-op.

Paula Pell came to the stage, delivered a couple of jokes, and performed Look at me Cinderella. Julie Klausner followed with Life is a Medley.

Before the finale, Bolin spoke about his early days in New York, about roommates struggling to pay the bills, and so hungry he ate the brownies his roommate baked to sell. He spoke about writing music and then shelving a rejected jingle for Lipton Tea.

Jen Resnick and Alison Posner sang the hilarious Lipton Tea jingle song.

There was something for everyone. Humor, charm, friends, family, and contemporary references—-cell phones, face time relationships, organic monster parties, and new-age foods like hummus—they forgot to mention avocado on toast and man hair buns.

Eli Bolin Has No Friends at Feinstein’s/54 Below

Featuring the music and lyrics of Eli Bolin

Drums Jeff Roberts, electric bass Brendan O’Grady, guitars Mike Pettry (also co-author and arranger), piano and music director Dan Pardo.

Directed by Laura Pietropinto, written with Sam Forman, Steven Gallagher, Julie Klausner, John Mulaney, Mike Pettry, Marika Sawyer, and Anonymous.

Music Directed by Dan Pardo, and produced by Carly Heitner and Erica Rotstein.

Livestream director Amanda Raymond

Creative & Programming Director Jennifer Ashley Tepper

Lighting Director KJ Hardy

Sound Supervisor Kris Umezawa

Executive Producers Steve Baruch and Richard Frankel

Feinstein’s/54 Below

The management team includes proprietors Steve Baruch, Richard Frankel, Tom Viertel, and restaurant general manager Mandisa Boxill.

The club presents live shows at 7 pm and 9:45 pm. 

54 W 54th St. NYC 10019

Tickets and information are available at www.54Below.com or call (646) 476-3551.

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Theatre Forward’s Gala Red Carpet, Naama Gherber at Birdland, Ann Kittredge at Birdland, Mia Pinero at Feinstein’s/54 Below, and John Lloyd Young at Cafe Carlyle.

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