SUZIE GOO: PRIVATE SECRETARY by Sky Gilbert, directed by David Oiye, with Ryan Kelly, Greg Campbell, David Ramsden, Lisa Anne Ross and Edward Roy. Presented by Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). Runs to June 13, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $20-$25, Sunday pwyc. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Revivals are always fascinating, letting us see how well or badly a script has aged. A couple of wrinkles mar Sky Gilbert 's 1991 play with music Suzie Goo: Private Secretary , but its entertaining, big-haired look at gender, power and sexuality in the 1960s still holds up in this worthy closer to Buddies in Bad Times' 25th season.
Wanting only to be a private secretary to a busy executive, the blond and leggy working girl Suzie Goo ( Ryan Kelly ) joins Corporeal Can Inc. Soon after taking "dick-tation" on her boss Mr. Bagg's ( David Ramsden ) lap, Suzie encounters tragedy, resulting in some campy plot twists and gender-bending surprises.
Gilbert's script uses the conventions of retro dramas like The Best Of Everything and Madame X to explore why ambitious and sexually adventurous women need to be punished. That the women are played by men (and that one of the male characters is played by a woman) helps prove his point.
Gilbert also shows us in the final scenes how the power structure itself corrupts, a timely message in the age of globalization.
But the play's underlying metaphor is about freedom of sexual expression in the era of AIDS, and I'm not sure the show can support it. The lines about keeping fluids inside - the point of Corporeal Can, after all - occasionally have the feel of a quickly dashed-off AIDS cabaret act.
Director David Oiye provides some nice touches, like having bewigged elevator operators take us to the show as if we're going to a job interview.
John Alcorn 's songs, especially in the first act, are lively enough - clearly Burt Bacharach was an inspiration. And the performers navigate Daniele Guevara 's clever set with skill. Ramsden and Greg Campbell have fun in and out of drag, while Edward Roy screeches his way through the scene-stealing role of sexually ambiguous personnel director Miss Gulch. Kelly brings a faux naíveté to Suzie, and his model-like tableaux do as much as the script to capture the mood.