COLE MINE: James Barbosa (left)
as the Fool to Morton Banks' Lear in
"Mr. Shakespeare and Mr. Porter."

     Style and substance were possessed in superabundance by the classic Cole Porter, who is currently being implored to "brush up his Shakespeare," by the Medicine Show in its new revue, "Mr. Shakespeare and Mr. Porter."
     Its conceptual devisers, the group's artistic directors Barbara Vann and James Barbosa, are belatedly suggesting to Porter a few of Shakespeare's plays he might have meddled with in addition to his historic kiss-me-Kating with "The Taming of the Shrew."

     This joyful mayhem, delivered with as much chutzpah as panache to comically digested versions of six of the Bardic canon, is embossed with generally and wittily apposite insertions of Porter songs (26 of them) in a garland of mini-musicals Porter oddly omitted to write.
     The Medicine Show, with its ancient attic theater, hard seats, shabby multi-purpose set, a solitary piano (persuasively pounded, admittedly, by a hard-working Randy Redd), and actors somewhat carelessly, if thriftily, attired, first conveys a well-meaning atmosphere of amateur theatricalism. But this is slowly but surely dissipated by the concept's charm and the performers' eager-beaver talents.
    In fairness, I was won over - at least grudgingly - during their first Shakespearean foray on "Macbeth," when David Comstock (gruesomely made up as Banquo's Ghost) sings Porter's happy ditty about being an "Extra Man" at the Party. By the time Cordelia had assured France and Burgundy that "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" and Rosalind and Celia had been so aptly described as "Two Little Babes in the Wood," I was totally captivated and waiting eagerly for the next song.
     Among the performers, perhaps only Bonnie Goodman has the voice, style and looks to light up such standard torches as "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "Night and Day." But Paul Murphy (ranging from Hamlet to Bottom) proves a capital clown, and the entire cast - especially as you see them, repertory-fashion, from sketch to sketch - becomes enormously likable.
     And as for the songs and the smart contexts in which they are used--contextwise, these guys could have taught "Crazy for You" something--these, of course, are delightful, delicious, delovely and deShakespeare! Not to mention dePorter.

"Mr. Shakespeare and Mr. Porter" is at the Medicine Show, 81 E. Second St., (212) 254-3566 [now (212) 262-4216].

©1992 by The New York Post            Résumé