The Accidental Club
Reviewed by Martin Hernandez
The Whitefire Theatre
Through April 28
Mira Dawson (playwright/songwriter Sherrie Scott) is a fading rock star who has just been enshrined into one of the most select institutions in the music industry. No, not the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame but the Accidental Club, which counts the likes of Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, and Amy Winehouse among its denizens, to name just an unfortunate few. Yes, it appears Mira, like her predecessors, has shuffled off this mortal coil by way of an inadvertent overdose. But as she unpeels more about her life and times, perhaps it wasn’t such an accident after all.
Accompanied by the spectral keyboardist Frankie (music director Noel Deis), Mira, by winning a celestial sweepstakes, has come back to Earth for one last show. The jaded Billie advises her it’s best not to go back “after the curtain falls on your childhood play” but Janis, the raucous president of the Club, says to just go for it (after all, Mira has deemed Joplin the “rock and roll Ann Landers”). Mira belts out some tunes and ruminates on life, death, addiction and love (which Mira, ever the addict, shamelessly declares “makes you feel so high”). Sometimes banal, often amusing, and occasionally profound, Dawson’s musings, both in monologue and in conversations with her trio of musical heroines, offer some insight on why they sadly left us too early and how we may avoid their examples.
Scott possesses formidable vocal chops plus a gift for mimicry as she fondly interprets songs made famous by the raspy Joplin (“Kozmic Blues,”) sultry Holiday (“Good Morning Heartache”) and gritty Winehouse (“I’m No Good”). She is also a commendable tunesmith, rendering her own works, such as the plaintive “Girl in the Window” and the reflective “Crash and Burn,” with assurance. But her take on the demons that led Mira to addiction (Daddy issues, lost loves, artistic letdowns, etc.) is given short shrift, and her characterization of Mira more resembles a graceful chanteuse than a badass rocker.
While it’s reasonable to expect Scott to use a microphone while singing, her using it while addressing the audience is overkill, given the small venue, and dilutes the intimacy director Trace Oakley is trying to achieve. Since the only time Mira ever lets loose of the mike is to replace it with the vodka bottle (over which she agonizes), it too serves as an overwrought symbol of addiction, particularly under Frankie’s rendition of Neil Young’s “Needle and the Damage Done.”
Oakley keeps the piece moving at a snappy pace, and Deis’ keyboard work nimbly complements Scott’s accomplished and heartfelt vocal interpretations.
Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri., 8 p.m.; through Apr. 28. (800) 838-3006 or www.theaccidentalclub.com. Running Time: 75 minutes with no intermission.