It’s not the worst performance ever seen on the New York stage. That honor remains a toss-up between Madonna in “Speed-the-Plow” and Macaulay Culkin in “Madame Melville.” Both these performers appeared to be reading from their respective script for the very first time.
Candace Bushnell is a much better memorizer than either Madonna or Culkin. Then again, she has the advantage of having written “Is There Still Sex in the City?,” which opened Tuesday at Off Broadway’s Daryl Roth Theatre. Her one-woman show is autobiographical, and borrows more than a little brashness from Suzanne Somers’ life story, “The Blonde in the Thunderbird,” seen briefly on Broadway in 2005.
Somers hawked the ThighMaster. Bushnell hawks her “Sex and the City” franchise, as well as her many books. And Belvedere Vodka. Even before “Is There Still Sex?” begins, Anna Louizos’ living room set promotes alcohol in the Candi Bar downstairs, and, if we missed it, the pre-curtain message to wear masks and turn off cellphones also features a plug for imbibing booze on the premises.
Planet-destroying consumption is Bushnell’s credo, and we’re not talking just any old buying binge. Bushnell tells us about her moral outrage over an early script of “Sex and the City” that had her beloved characters shopping at a bargain-basement dump. That offensive script is projected on stage so we can witness the error and how Bushnell rectified it with her red pen by crossing out the name Bloomingdale’s. “And I wrote Gucci! Gucci! Gucci!” Bushnell cries with raised fist, to much applause. It’s a good thing for these theatergoers’ bank accounts that Carrie Bradshaw worships at Manolo Blahnik, not Maserati.
Earlier this week, the new “Mrs. Doubtfire” musical opened on Broadway. It’s another show whose moment was a decade or two ago. Today, the father in “Mrs. Doubtfire” comes off as a whiny loser. Bushnell is something more insufferable: She is a whiny winner who flaunts White Female Privilege. It’s uncomfortable listening to Bushnell’s gripes about being a member of an oppressed majority group when her place-dropping runs the gamut from Aspen to Sag Harbor to Chateau Marmont.
Lorin Latarro directs Bushnell to pause for laughter even when there isn’t any. Two inspired directorial moments emerge in the dead air. The first comes when Bushnell throws a bunch of scrunchies into the audience. A little later, Bushnell brings her two matching designer poodles on stage to even more thunderous applause than the “Gucci! Gucci! Gucci!” line. A woman behind me noted, “That woke everybody up.”
It also answers the question of the show’s title: Pets make the best boyfriends.