Review by Lester Cook
Saturday evening was a delightful romp that transported me to an era where cabaret and Drag were a regular part of our entertainment. It has been a consistent part of theatre for over a half a millennia when men were regularly cast in women’s roles. This wasn’t just a cabaret or Drag show, this was the seamless blending Drag, cabaret, opera, and comedy. The beauty of humor in this venue is that you expect to be slightly offended, especially those of us of a certain age, but you also expect to laugh because of the sheer ludicrousness of the subject matter. Be prepared for the good-natured heckling. If nothing else, it will make you think.
Pangea’s tradition of providing space for diverse artists, musicians, and comedians has resulted in the residency of a delightfully snarky but never shy, Amanda Reckonwith played by David Sabella with musical direction by Mark Hartman. The lighthearted banter between Amanda and Marco, and even the audience could leave someone confused unless one understands that our dear Amanda has recently returned to center stage from her early (forced?) retirement. And dear Mark must drag her kicking and screaming into the 21st century – no, you can’t request a “strapping, young man” anymore for fear of offending someone. Mark’s attempts to bring her into the realm of PC only caused her to dig in her heels. And that is when the comedy starts.
Amanda Reckonwith in “Residential Care” pulls the audience along with her bold voice, funny stories, wardrobe “malfunctions,” and humor. She introduces us to a rotating catalog of our favorite music from opera, Broadway, and traditional “spirituals.” Who knew that “Danny Boy” by P.D.Q. Bach could evoke the deep emotions one would feel hearing “Swing Sweet Low Chariot”? Or is it supposed to be “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”?
Amanda Reckonwith’s in-you-face humor was tempered by her Musical Director Mark Hartman through his commonsense approach just added to the laughs. It was the quiet (and quite funny) pushback to her Latinizing his name, among other things, during the introductions. She insisted on addressing him as Maestro Marco Carouomo. The slip-of-the-tongue jokes, innuendoes, and a “missing” guest star (Chita Rivera) resulting in her hitting that famous note that all Sopranos strive as she attempted to sing both their parts from West Side Story. She nearly fainted with surprise which left the audience rolling in laughter. Her vocal range is as astounding as her resume and to no surprise. Who else can claim that they shared the stage with illustrious performers like Bebe Neuwirth, Melanie Griffiths, and Patrick Swayze?
Her show left me feeling like I had taken a step back to the days when I frequented the old cabarets and Drag Shows of a bygone, and much loved, era. The beauty of Amanda Reckonwith’s in “Residential Care” is that no two shows will ever be the same and that is what makes this show so special. You will always be in for a surprise.