Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage!
The secrets of love have eluded the sages for eons. Luckily, "Three’s Company" star Joyce DeWitt is finally on the scene to answer all of your questions as the titular lady in "Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating & Marriage!" A recent foray to the small Sofia’s Downstairs Theater under a Times Square Italian restaurant found a unlikely audience of wildly receptive theatergoers soaking in the lessons on courting and romance, via relationship books from the 1930s.
"We’re here to gussy up your love life," says DeWitt as she takes the stage, an erstwhile reading room. With her lovesick assistant Paco (Mauricio Perez) by her side, Miss Abigail reminisces back to that awful day at the Best Little Hairhouse in Bethesda when she first learned of the break-up of star couple Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston (who repeatedly calls the Love Hotline to solicit advice).
"There was a time when fidelity wasn’t just an investment firm," scolds Miss Abigail. A self-confessed late bloomer, Miss Abigail transformed herself, soaking up the secrets to love and enjoying a long, happy marriage before launching into her mission to help all of us "desperate, lonely people" (and her celebrity clients) with the golden advice of yesteryear.
"Love can’t be bought, but it can be taught," she advises, and shows the eager audience just how to go about it.
First, when you’re looking for love, look your best. Via a handy handout, "Ask the Looking Glass," Miss Abigail advises that you check that your hair and teeth are brushed, that your hands, face, and neck are clean, and most importantly, "Have I a fresh handkerchief?"
Once you set your sights on your prey, how do you get them? The F Word, advises Miss Abigail: Flirting. Calling three audience members to the stage, she demonstrated her trademark moves: This stool is free. The lip lick. The Napkin Drop. The Bend and Snap. (Whoops, wrong show!)
"Keep your knees straight when you bend, to accentuate the curvature of your hiney," Miss Abigail instructed a blond audience member, who was wearing a "Three’s Company" T-shirt with a picture of herself Photoshopped in. Meshing the three moves together, an earnest Paco turned the moves into a mini low-impact workout regimen.
With the success of flirting comes a first date. Planning the date is the woman’s job, advised Miss Abigail, who consulted several of her dating guides, which overwhelmingly recommended wiener roasts as the ideal first date.
Make conversation, but avoid topics like exes, or that you’re a Dungeon Master. At the end of the evening, indicate to your date that you are ready to be kissed by removing something, for example, an earring, and exclaiming how lovely it feels for your earlobes to be free and unpinched. Pop out your chest. Tell him he looks tense, and offer to rub his shoulders. Marvel over his broad, muscular shoulders.
"Yes. Want to go to the gun show?" asks Paco, as Miss Abigail laughs. Lovelorn Paco slowly returns two tickets to the gun show to his pocket.
Murmur sweet nothings. And then kiss her as if nothing else existed in the world, Miss Abigail advises. Practice your kiss ahead of time on a mirror, the back of your hand, or a cousin. Practice saying the word "true" slowly.
"I did this exercise in Albany at a Women’s Seminar, and I had 200 women French kissing before the croissants were served," she quipped.
After the kissing comes the love, the true love of never wearing of one’s company, of playing games without quarreling, of homemade crawfish salad sandwiches and a partner that doesn’t mind if you burp after dinner.
"I knew it was true love because Robert never complained," says a wistful Miss Abigail.
But often, love is mistaken for lust, or stalking. Miss Abigail invites two audience members to the stage to play "Love, Lust, or Stalking." Describing several scenarios, contestants must identify between the three. When Paco describes his feelings for Miss Abigail -- the older, mature woman who found him crying heartbroken into his enchiladas, dusted him off, and employed him as her assistant -- it can only be love.
Hand in hand with love is marriage, a topic that prompts Miss Abigail to don her old wedding dress which still (almost) fits! Weddings don’t need to break the bank, and the reception should be a party. The size of the ring doesn’t matter, she adds, noting, "It should be a symbol of love, not of status."
Miss Abigail takes an audience poll to discover that one couple had been married for 41 years. The bride’s advice: "The secret is, you have to be a bitch."
"Be a good listener," advises Miss Abigail as she disseminates her "10 Commandments for Couples." "Husbands, remember her birthday and anniversaries. Women, remember your husband is just a grown-up boy. Men, don’t be stingy. Women, don’t live beyond your means."
Sex -- or mating, as Miss Abigail demurs -- is also important. After Paco screens his clips-based filmstrip, "How to Hump: A Guide to the Making of the Love," Miss Abigail gives her suggestion: use my DLDOW.
"I can’t tell you how many times my DLDOW got Robert and I out of some sticky situations," says Miss Abigail, outlining her randy acronym: Decide together to make a change. Listen to what your partner has to say. Don’t be critical. Order some Chinese food. When in doubt, get counseling.
Even with all these tips, love can be elusive. As Paco says, "Sometimes love is not in a book, sometimes it is staring you in the face and speaking with a Spanish accent."
Offering her his slightly more picante crawfish salad sandwich, Paco confesses, "I love you, Abby."
But a May-December second love may be too much for an older woman, says Miss Abigail, who notes that, "Even though she might want it with all of her heart, it might be too late."
But as the house lights go down, Miss Abigail gives in to Paco’s sweet nothings, ending the show on a high note.
With a run-time of about 90 minutes, this quirky show working under the premise of a self-help seminar makes for an entertaining diversion. But its unrepentant corny patina can be difficult for jaded New Yorkers to swallow.
Mauricio Perez is pitch-perfect as Paco, a former "Alter Boyz" cast member; look for him in future Broadway shows. But despite being an avowed fan of DeWitt, this critic found the flustering, slapstick humor that was her trademark in "Three’s Company" to be a little dated. This actress seemed to be at her best when she was truest to herself.
Still, unrequited love and lessons on romance with an audience-participation bent are few and far between, and overall, "Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating & Marriage!" will leave you chuckling, if not on the way to the altar.