Last night Almog Pail brought her vision of the life of icon Rita Hayworth to Theater Row in her one-woman show Me, Myself and Rita. For fifty minutes, energetically performed dialogue, pleasant acoustic guitar accompaniment, a little song, a little movement and film clips of the icon herself engage the audience. Ms. Pail invests her talents in demonstrating her obvious love for Rita Hayworth and deserves high praise for her hard work and courage.
Without reservation, I was interested during the entire performance although at times, due to some questionable directorial choices, the perspective of the piece was not clear and we are left to wonder who is “Me” who is “Myself” and which one is Rita.
The biographical genre, in theatre, film or cabaret has inherent pitfalls, namely, comparison. Imitation of a one-of-a-kind legend is risky and difficult. However, the audience will join the performer willingly in the suspended reality if the “essence” of the character is true and recognizably captured. Almog Pail does not attempt to imitate Rita Hayworth, and rightfully so, but offers us an essence of the icon that falls slightly short of its mark.
The performance begins with a film clip of Rita Hayworth in one of her most famous roles as Gilda singing “Put the Blame on Mame.” As enjoyable as it was, this created a never to be fulfilled expectation of a dead-ringer portrayal that unnecessarily upstaged the actress. Conceptually, an interesting and brave choice but in application begs the question “Why are you upstaging yourself?” If Rita is to interact with her celluloid self, we must first believe the portrayer’s reincarnation.
The play continues moving back and forth through time. From her early days with her father, her beginnings in Hollywood; through interactions with co-stars, the legend’s insecurities and questions about her legacy are revealed. Scenes of her erratic behavior did not clearly inform. “Was Rita Hayworth crazy?” I wondered, not recognizing that she battled with Alzheimer’s disease until reading the program notes after the performance.
The high points of the production were the conversation with the producer who demanded her name change to Rita, the monologue about learning to dance from her father and the magic act. Stories of her five husbands were interesting fodder; nevertheless, using audience members as props to little effect was again a directorial misstep.
Musical accompaniment provided deftly and unobtrusively by musical director Yishai Fisher, supported the mood of monologue effectively. From time to time Rita or Myself or Me–I am not sure who–spoke to the guitarist sitting to her left, though their relationship was extremely vague. On the bare stage with one chair, a screen and a few props, the actress freely created her world unencumbered, which I liked. What was missing was a consistent sense of place, awareness of time and a clear flight plan for the journey.
Only an artist’s of daring, discipline and determination can manage to bring their dreams to fruition on a New York stage. For this achievement, praise and kudos to Almog Pail! Shining a light on the consequences of Alzheimer’s disease through drama is a laudable goal. For this, congratulations to Almog Pail! With a second breath, this reviewer humbly recommends a second eye, the right director to hone and focus this beautiful idea and thoughtful homage to the great and beloved star of Hollywood’s Golden Era, Rita Hayworth. We surely have not seen the last of Me, Myself, and Rita!