Thursday, September 8, 2011

'The Realest Real Housewives': This One's For You, Russell...

Gone too soon. That seemed to be the theme of the first episode back to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and unfortunately that is going to be the theme to this blog post. Just as I finally got to know The Realest Real Housewives, Casey Wilson's UCB sketch show that features comedy players reading transcripts from the various Housewives franchises aloud on stage, poof, it was gone.

Photo (c) LA Weekly, 2011

Wilson created the show, and just like she promised when I caught up with her at the TCAs just last month, she did include some new scenes from the most recent season of The Real Housewives of New York City in the performance that took place just last night in Los Angeles. Bringing together long-time cast members June Raphael, Melissa Rauch, Morgan Walsh, and Danielle Schneider, this final installment also featured a couple of special guests, including Rob Huebel as all of the househusbands. Kicking the evening off just right was an electronica version of "Don't Be Tardy For The Party" that slowly dissolved from somber (with the women entering carrying candles as if they were at a funeral-- and in a way, we guess they were) to dance party. Lots of awkward flailing about the stage commenced before the dramatic readings could begin.

Starting with The Real Housewives of New York City, including scenes with ex-housewife Bethenny Frankel, and working their way through O.C., N.J., D.C., and Beverly Hills, without bothering to stop in Miami because "let's face it, no one cares about Miami," the troupe took on everything from weaving-pulling to reunion shows, empty love tanks to party planning, questionable hit singles to electronic cigarettes, and of course that infamous table flip. Though scenes were pulled out across a variety of episodes, none were altered in any way in terms of dialogue, nor for the most part inflection, body language, or "actions." The Realest Real Housewives was all about these comedians studying and then copying outlandish, immature behavior, commentary implied. By re-enacting it for an audience who understood the insanity but still ate that sh*t up like pop culture was ending tomorrow, we could all share in the crazy cultural obsession, and pass a little bit (oh, okay, a lot) of judgment on it in the process. Without any direct words being spoken about any of it. Freedom is glorious, isn't it?

Each player had a stand-out moment (or two or twelve) of her own. Raphael absolutely nailed Ramona Singer's "Turtle Time" jig, as well as Danielle Staub's inflections; Schneider was a perfect mimic of Camille Grammer's passive aggressive baby voice and Cat Ommanney's loud, abrasive Brit-speak; Walsh made me love Sheree Whitfield in a way I didn't know was possible when she resurrected the poet argument; Rauch dug down deep for Allison Dubois, punctuating every biting remark with an equally cunning and cutting expression; and Wilson perfected Kelly Bensimon's cuckoo for the rant on Alex's redness, showed off her high kick as Teresa Giudice, and worked through some giggles to perform "Close To You." Apologies to the fifth actress in the show last night, but I did not catch her name, and she was not listed on the website. She was, however, excellent at channeling her inner Kim Zolciak.

I wouldn't be surprised if Huebel had never seen an episode of The Real Housewives of Anything before last night. And I wouldn't be surprised if now he is so scarred he never wants to see any of those real housewives turn up at the same party he's at. He had a seemingly impossible task: to channel all of the househusbands from every season (varying accents and degrees of repressed homosexuality not withstanding). Actually, scratch that: he had to play all of the male characters, even if some of them were not househusbands but simply housewife wannabes. Like Derek J., Zolciak's, um, wig-tamer? with whom she once got into a discussion about wearing a different hair piece for every single day. Of her life. Huebel took to Derek J. like-- well, I can't think of an intelligent analogy; I'm still laughing just thinking about it. He seemed to really get into the conversational aspect of it, even if he never had a conversation about hair, let alone wigs, before. Similarly, his one line testimonial as Joe Giudice, and his uncomfortable glancing around as both Donn and Kelsey Grammer were classic in their own right.

Fortunately (or unfortunately?) Huebel didn't have to take on Russell Armstrong. Though the show was dedicated to his memory (so I guess nothing is *too* soon...), he (and Taylor) were auspiciously missing from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills portion of the show.

Before they led into scenes from each city's installment, the women would walk all the way downstage to address the audience and give a signature line of their character's, just as we see during the opening credits. I don't want to know how many hours Wilson obsessed over selecting just the right one to epitomize each woman's own particular brand of narcissism, but she nailed it every time. Exceptional gems were Caroline Manzo's "I shave my whole face," delivered in a gruff voice I didn't know Rauch had in her, as well as Grammer's "pernicious" rant, as brought to life re-imagined by Schneider.

Comedy troupes are fascinating to watch work. If you look past the actors delivering the action, to the ones patiently waiting in the back, you can learn a lot. This show featured every player intently listening to, and sometimes laughing at, their fellow actors. They each threw their whole heart and soul into the performance, and it seemed like they had ample time to rehearse, despite their day jobs tugging them apart at all angles. Everyone in the cast is currently working in this industry-- and thank God for that because it means actually talented people are getting rewarded!-- and in order to make a piece like this flow so well, they have to know each other very well, let alone the material. Looking around the stage, I just wanted the show to keep going-- not only later into the night, but also for week after week. The gears in my brain were already turning with what scenes from the most recent franchises were worthy of interpretation here. I just wanted to hang out with these people and see what they thought about other reality shows I love to hate!

But alas, it was not meant to be. The curtain has been closed on The Realest Real Housewives; the UCB stage has gone dark (well, not really; they had another show coming in at 11pm last night, and they feature other recurring shows throughout the week, but you get the drift). It's bittersweet, really; they had a good run, and I'm glad I got in before the end, but now I just want more, and there is no more to come. They've talked of Armstrong passing away before his time, but this one is going to sting more; I have more at stake here.

Oh, The Realest Real Housewives, you were so young, so full of promise. I may have only seen you once, but I will mourn you for a long, long time.

No comments: