Love the One You Are

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'To the Top Top Top!'
By Hazelle Goodman
Joe's Pub
239-6200

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Feel good is fat Bertha's message, as she waggles her imposing ass at the crowd. Feel good, wily panhandler Willie's fingers thrum as he tests whether those titties be real. In To the Top Top Top!, Hazelle Goodman's nightclub act­cum­risqué revival meeting, the irrepressible writer-performer twists her reedy length and expressive features into a series of New York characters. Under Verniece Miller's energetic direction, Goodman whirls into an often hilarious assortment of wigs and costumes, to a hip-hop or bluesy beat. While some of her material is unoriginal— one section is too reminiscent of Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues— Goodman is always likable and usually funny. Her writing roams from the raunchy to the uplifting, but she's best parodying the foibles of folks both black and white. Her best characters are women of optimism and attitude. One creation, Ms. Millie, is a naive Islands immigrant beaming dreams of glory, like her sales brainstorm to solve women's two problems with men— "stay home" or "come back" pom-pom powder: just sprinkle as needed. Chantiece, a chatty vamp in a flowing wig, scorns "nappy-headed girls" who don't get the man and is exasperated at guys who need "space": "Space? There is space all around you!" Then Bertha materializes, the rotund mama who trumpets "big is in" and steals all the skinny girls' men. A few of Goodman's vignettes are less successful, and she spoons on the syrup real thick with a "follow your dream" finale complete with a hand-clapping sing-along of "This Little Light." But whether sporting a straw hat or a pair of over-the-top stiletto heels, she nails her characters down.

 
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