Before venturing to see Rita Rudner in her new musical play “Two’s a Crowd,” I looked up and savored on YouTube a few of her clever and personable vintage standup performances. I am happy to report that her wit and humor, enhanced by her acting ability, remain alive and well in this delightful new comedy that she has written with her husband, Martin Bergman, who also effectively directs. You are guaranteed a barrage of laughs and good cheer, augmented by entertaining outbursts of character-expressive songs.
The writers have concocted a bizarre situation. Rudner plays Wendy, who, wounded by her husband’s cheating, has booked into a Las Vegas hotel to chill out alone. But she quickly finds that the room has been over-booked. Robert Yacko as Tom turns up and is determined to fulfill his reservation. Alas, there are no more available rooms in the hotel. So there Wendy and Tom are, hostile at first, not only because of the room conflict, but with clashing personalities and attitudes.
Wendy is a bundle of quirks. Nuts for cleanliness, she has even brought her own sheets, along with her container of air spray. One can relish the way in which Rudner makes the most of her character and funny lines, which she dispenses with perfect timing. She isn’t doing standup, but she has incorporated those skills into her performance, which reflects technique honed during her long career in various aspects of show business.
Yacko is vigorous as Tom, who reveals his continued sadness over the death of his wife. Although he can match Wendy in the sharp retorts department, Tom really wants to break through the barrier. Of course, we already assume that things will get cozy. A portable bed is brought in for Tom and they are destined to spend the night. Intermission arrives with an unexpected flair.
In addition to the smart writing and amusing plot development, “Two’s a Crowd” benefits from the superb contributions of two other players. Kelly Holden Bashar shines in totally different roles--Louise, the officious hotel assistant, and Lili, the sharp-tongued Slavic maid. In the second guise Bashar scores with a very funny number that she sings with gusto.
Brian Lohmann also is excellent as a gay waiter and later as Wendy’s erring husband desperate to win her back and full of pleas for forgiveness. By this time there is predictable competition with the newly smitten Tom.
Blend all of this with the music and lyrics of musical director Jason Feddy, who also plays guitar and sings some of his own compositions. The music mostly has an easygoing country-western twang. The other members of the trio perched on high are Eli Zoller, bass guitarist, keyboards and mandolin, and Julian Bridges, percussionist.
Bergman has provided much fluidity in his direction, with cast members sometimes merging to sing together even though their characters might not normally be side by side at those moments.
Tessa Ann Bookwalter has designed an attractive Vegas-type hotel room, with a large bed centered—a set which, when spun around, simply features a restaurant table for two against a wall.
“Two’s a Crowd” comes across as pure entertainment and merits appreciation for its writing, acting and direction. At the core is Rudner’s luminous performance that makes one appreciate anew her comedic and overall acting expertise that melds with her perky, winsome stage personality. At 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street. Phone: 646-892-7999. Reviewed July 22, 2019.