Edinburgh Fringe 2013
During the worst blizzard in New York City history, Julia, a call girl, arrives for an appointment with Jeffrey, a reclusive young man who has gotten rich by inventing best-selling sexual devices. What starts as a routine trick with trimmings (fake palm trees, suntan lotion, and lots of margaritas) leads to Jeffrey and Julia getting considerably more than they bargained for on this first date.
“Is there anything better than Bobby Darin at the start of a play?” I asked the Current Mrs Dan as we waited for the house lights to go down on The Inventor and the Escort. “Yes” she replied as they came up again, “Dino Martin at the end.” She was smiling. I was relieved. From the flyer this might have been a risky choice for a Saturday noontime out with the wife. It wasn’t. Matt Morillo’s script is like a Turner Classic Movies, golden era of Hollywood RomCom gem, spiced to 21st century palates. It’s about two unlikely people falling for one another over the course of a pacy, funny and even tear jerking hour. There are Kleenex moments but of the girly not blokey sort.
Former fat boy Jeffrey has never got past his inhibitions and shy approach to women. “I’ve got no game” he laments. So he’s been doing what any red blooded millionaire geek would do – escorts. Lots of them. The latest to arrive at his Manhattan pad is Julia. Jeffrey plans for Julia to provide a happier ending to an incident from his past which happened to happen on Jones Beach. The set is thus bedecked with such items as deck chairs, a tiki bar and a blow-up palm tree – “there aren’t any palm trees on Jones Beach” Julia points out helpfully. She is a high price call girl. With a menu of included (as well as optional extra) dos and a few absolute don’ts. Anyone who had a giggle or two at the Sex and the City scene where Samantha talks to a sexual health nurse will enjoy this bit of dialogue. And there’s no way I can talk about the inventions with which Jeffrey has made his fortune without spoiling an uproarious highlight to anyone’s Fringe ‘13.
The team at the NorthBritishMan newspaper has got it VERY wrong when they recently described this script as bawdy (without having seen it). I grew up watching reruns of ‘70s sex comedy classics such as Confessions of a Provincial Fleet Street Wannabe. I know bawdy when I see it guys. This show is as bawdy as the scenes between Robert Stephens and Pamela Franklin in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Bawdy no. Frank yes. Sexual definately and no less dramatic or empowering for that. As when Franklin as Sandy belittles Stephens’ character at the end of their on screen affair, so too does Jessica Moreno demonstrate what a great female character actor can do with a butch script.
An innocence runs through Moreno’s portrayal of Julia just as Jaret Sacrey never allows his Jeffery to be a loser. This is a play without a villain or victim. It is neither an interminable opinion piece about prostitution nor is it a re-hash of a certain film starring Eric Robert’s sister – Rude Awakening now that’s an ‘80s classic for a snow swept night. The Inventor and the Escort is a production set in the worst blizzard in New York’s history and polished in the Los Angeles sunshine. It is very much ready for an outing in whatever we’re meant to call the weather in Auld Reekie right now.
The pace couldn’t be sharper. The comic timings are perfect. The music is classy and so are the performances which are supple enough to bend to spilled drinks and broken pearl strings. Moreno is smart, funny, sexy, flirtatious and at the dramatic climax heartbreakingly vulnerable and human. It’s a humbling performance to watch until you remember she could easily be playing Monica in Marshal Cordell’s stage adaptation of Friends a few years from now and will just wipe her tears away with the mountains of cash to come.
The single smartest thing you can do this Fringe is to get past the boobalicious design of the poster or flyers to which this review may be pinned and instead go see that rarest of things – a brilliant RomCom where the girl and the guy in the audience both come away happy.
There’s gold in more than dem dare boobies!