I loved "Cactus
Flower," a scanty but endearing comedy, which opened
March 10 at Off-Broadway's Westside Theatre. What the
play lacks in originality is offset by moments of sheer
hilarity thanks largely to Michael Bush's masterful
direction and a winning cast lead by Maxwell Caulfield,
Lois Robbins and Jenni Barber.
This is "Cactus
Flower's" first major New York revival since it opened
46 years ago -- and seven blocks to the east and north
of the Westside Theatre -- at Broadway's
Biltmore Theatre to rave reviews for star Lauren Bacall.
Written by the late Abe
Burrows, and based on a French farce by Pierre Barillet
and Jean-Pierre Gredy, "Cactus Flower" is Burrows'
second New York production this year. He also co-wrote
the book for the 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical
"How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" which
being revived at Broadway's Al Hirschfield Theatre this
Caulfield, no stranger
to Broadway or Off-Broadway ("An Inspector Calls",
"Chicago", "Tryst"), strikes just the right balance
between his distress he can't marry his young
mistress to disdain for her new young suitor who lives
next door. The handsome and virile Caulfield is also
a throwback to the leading matinee idols of yore, from
the romantic Charles Boyer to the long-legged light
comedian Ray Bolger who was in the original Broadway
production of the musical
"Where's Charley" and "The Wizard of Oz."
Robbins, perhaps best known for her TV roles in "One
Life to Live" and "Loving," plays the title role of
Stephanie Dickinson, the prickly nurse who, not so
secretly, holds a torch for her duplicitous dentist
boss - - and finally flowers into a middle-aged
Cinderella. Jenni Barber, who co-starred in "The 25th
Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," may have the hardest
act to follow if one remembers Goldie Hawn's breakout
performance in the movie version of "Cactus Flower." But
she's certainly up to the challenge, bouncing between
her genuine innocence to alluring sexuality.
The playwrights give her character a unique twist: She
urges her lover Caulfield to try and do more to please
his ex-wife -- or the woman she thinks is his ex-wife.
He plays ball until neither he nor his nurse, pretending
to be his ex-wife, can't stand it any more. Caulfield,
Robbins and Barber are ably and amusingly aided by the
supporting cast of Anthony Reimer, John Herrera, Robin
Skye, Jeremy Bobb and Emily Walton.
Productions and Stonemile Productions have presented
"Cactus Flower" at the Westside Theatre. This time
out it may not be one of the biggest hits of the
current season, let alone the decade of the 1960's,
when the original ran for a whopping 1274
But take off your
thinking cap -- and leave your own worries at
the doorstep -- you're in for two hours of fun and
several scenes of side-splitting laughs.
plays at the Westside Theatre, 407 West 43rd St,
Tuesdays at 7, Wednesdays - Saturdays at 8, and
Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 3.