"Terri," a one-woman show conceived by Tim Grundmann for actress/singer Theresa Rakov, heads out to the old campgrounds for its fun. And while a little camp goes a long way, a whole evening's worth doesn't really go much further.
First unveiled last month at Dot's Spot on Capitol Hill, the revue is set for two more performances there tomorrow night and Saturday. Patrons of the New Playwrights' Theatre will recognize some of the songs as having been culled from the nutty musicals, 11 in all, that Grundmann wrote over the years for that organization. But there is some new material, as well, tailored, it appears, to Rakov's extroverted personality.
Grundmann can be alarmingly clever with a lyric and he has a storehouse of bright, upbeat melodies to pour into a piano. His best numbers ("Don't Get Your Hopes Up," "Joggers") play perfectly chipper tunes against lyrics that flail the optimistic temperament or the fatuousness of social mores -- a fruitful contrast. And he's got a lethal sense of parody, especially as concerns previous efforts in the field of musical comedy.
But Grundmann has demonstrated those gifts for some time now. Anyone waiting for him to move beyond mock ballads of love and bondage, satirical ditties about nuns on a vacation spree or insane arias sung by rampaging gypsies will probably view "Terri" as an exercise in marking time.
Rakov is a big woman with loud pipes and a pushy manner that is sometimes funny, and sometimes merely reminiscent of the party guest who ends up wearing the lamp shade and sitting in the hors d'oeuvres tray. ("Whack that pinata," she bellows lustily, midway through a characteristic song, entitled "Party Girl.") For much of the show, she seems called upon to caricature the used and abused female, when she is not simply stumbling up against the gender confusions of the times. One not-so-good joke has her singing an updated "He Touched Me" (from "Drat, the Cat"): "He/she touched me. He/she put his/her hand in mine . . ."
Some of the material would be a good change of pace, if there were a pace to be changed. But the camp sensibility pretty much prevails from beginning to end. That's discouraging, since Grundmann has it in him to write the real item, not merely takeoffs. Spoofing "Dallas" or latter-day virgins doesn't really put his talents to much of a stretch.