Austin serves up laughs, music, and wisdom to all second bananas of the world at OB Playhouse
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, October 23, 2022
We were promised Broadway Cabaret meets TED Talk and Alyssa Anne Austin delivers in Always a Banana, Never the Bride: An Ode to Broadway’s “Lesser Ladies” playing at Ocean Beach Playhouse for one weekend only.
This one-woman show, written by Austin and performed with Music Director Richard Dueñez Morrison onstage at the keys, is a study of the archetypical “second banana,” so coined by Jane Krakowski and a mainstay of Golden Age theatre. In the 70-minute, one act show, Austin exercises quite possibly every single one of her facial muscles with an array of expressive moments, dances circles (literally) around the stage with tremendous physicality, and has the audience alternately reflecting in writing and laughing.
As she tackles a variety of second banana songs one after the other (“All That Jazz” from Chicago, “A Trip to the Library” From She Loves Me, and “Popular” from Wicked are the first boxes checked), she drives home the “multidimensional multi-hyphenate” nature of all of these women; after all, they are second bananas, but they are so much more than that. They are resilient and protective and endearing and dynamic. They are human.
Set on the stage of another (Halloween-themed) musical currently running at the OB Playhouse, this production nevertheless features set pieces by way of a floral room divider and cushioned arm chair, as well as a handful of beautifully executed costumes by Teresa E. Craven and a clever lighting scheme by Shaun Lim. The addition of an easel with chart paper with definitions and self-discovery questions to the stage give this show a scholarly atmosphere. Though at times some of the writing is hard to see due to the colors used, this device generally seems to be effective at keeping the “story” moving forward. It would be interesting to see how this might change (or not!) in future iterations of the show. I feel that this choice, while low tech, matches the career coach vibe that Austin creates through her conversational-but-high-energy delivery.
Additionally, Luke H. Jacob’s choreography shines throughout the production. It is especially charming in the athletic and flirtatious “Tom, Dick or Harry” from Kiss Me Kate, during which Austin is joined by three suitors, Xavier J. Bush, Marc Caro, and Colby Hamann. The song is delightfully sweet and is performed to perfection and, in fact, one of many examples of her stylistic range as a performer.
I’m pretty sure that everyone will leave the theatre just a bit more enamored with the second bananas of the world, “lovingly disarm(ed)” by the pep talk, and ready to pursue some passions. That is, if they make it out to see Always a Banana, Never the Bride: An Ode to Broadway’s “Lesser Ladies” in its limited at Ocean Beach Playhouse this Sunday, October 23 at 2 p.m. or Monday, October 24 at 7 p.m. Tickets available at alyssaanneaustin.com/onewomanshow.