Review: Cactus Flower
The swinging '60s are back in this retro comedy revival.
Fri Mar 11 2011
Photograph: Carol Rosegg
SWINGER TIME Barber, second from left, doesn't get the joke.
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5
There's nothing wrong with the mediocre revival of Abe Burrows's sex comedy Cactus Flower that a time machine couldn't fix. You simply zip back to 1965, show up hungover at the office, sexually harass the secretary, do no work, have a three-martini lunch, return to work, vomit on the elevator boy, harass the secretary some more, punch the clock and head for the bar. Before you know it, you're in the right frame of mind for a comedy whose opening gag involves a lovelorn girl's suicide attempt turning into a meet-cute smooch from the next-door neighbor applying mouth-to-mouth. Feminist this show is not.
Not that Cactus Flower should be liberated; it's the sort of amiably sleazy farce that was quite popular on Broadway in the '60s—a blend of titillation, low-level satire and a mildly knotty comic plot. The original production ran for nearly three years, and a 1969 film version starred Goldie Hawn, Ingrid Bergman and Walter Matthau. More recently, the play inspired the Adam Sandler--Jennifer Aniston rom-com Just Go with It. Burrows's premise (borrowed from a French farce) is pleasantly silly: A womanizing dentist who pretends to be married to meet girls has fallen in love and needs someone to impersonate his fake wife, because his inamorata wants to meet said spouse before he "divorces" her. The dentist settles on his spinsterish, ultra-capable secretary, who transforms into a stylish cougar...and you can guess the rest yourself.
With a top-notch cast of comic actors and more inspired direction than Michael Bush can muster, a revival of Cactus Flower could be fun in a smart, sexy, heavily ironized way, like an especially silly episode of Mad Men. But neither Maxwell Caulfield's caddish tooth-puller nor Lois Robbins's uptight assistant has the comic chops to carry the material out of period pose. Jenni Barber and Jeremy Bobb are appealing as the younger romantic partners, but for this sort of dated fluff to be successful, everybody needs to do the time warp.
Westside Theatre. By Abe Burrows. Dir. Michael Bush. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 25mins. One intermission.