Monologues and Musings ... for Money, Honey, a light-hearted show that's raising funds for soon-to-be-out-of-work Times-Picayune employees, recently premiered at Mid-City Theatre. Longtime Times-Picayune society columnist Nell Nolan (pictured) wrote the script, which she performed along with her niece Ashley Nolan and Times-Picayune political cartoonist Steve Kelley. Kelley and Nell were among the more than 200 people laid off during the paper's recent firings, but Nell will continue her social column at the paper.
The show doesn't address the issues at The Times-Picayune. Instead, it features short sketches about various topics. The material and delivery were uneven, but the packed house on the Sunday when I saw the show was clearly enchanted.
Although Nell gets credit for authorship, Kelley offered his own stand-up comedy routine. Kelly was engaging as he offered reflections on the absurdities of life. He pondered what people could learn by reading the list of ingredients on food products. He noted the list for Haagen-Dazs: "Milk, sugar and yolk of egg." Not egg yolk, but yolk of egg! "What hole of ass thought that one up?" Kelley wondered.
The monologues were mostly humorous. Nell began by addressing imaginary actors who would "midwife" her creation. To say this playwright takes herself seriously is an understatement. For her, the reading is a sacred moment. The actors must breathe, hold hands, become family. The play is a melodrama about a rich, socially prominent family and follows the heroine, Melpomene, whose lover is leaving her for a television meteorologist.
Ashley played a young woman named Cornelia and told of her complex relations with her family's housekeeper Lula Mae. This fascinating narrative began with Cornelia calling Lula Mae both her "black momma" and a witch who had power over her. She believed Lula stole silverware from the family's plantation house in the country. It turns out Lula did not steal the silver, and the housekeeper lied to her in order to prevent a tragic love affair with Lula's nephew. "She loved me," concluded Cornelia. "That was her power over me."
Nell assigned herself most of the comic roles, and some were outrageous. She appeared as a scheming Mexican shopkeeper, a down-home Y'at marrying off her daughter and a beleaguered Uptown matron trying unsuccessfully to give a lesson on Dante's Divine Comedy. This last part bears a striking resemblance to the best-known sketch by monologist Ruth Draper.
Fred Nuccio directed the show and kept things moving briskly. Nell says she hopes to bring the piece back in November. — DALT WONK