BY JERRY TALLMER
The name of the show is “Naked in a Fishbowl,” but a better title might be “La Cage Aux Filles” not “Folles,” for these seven young women, four regulars and three newcomers are nobody’s fools. They do, however, to this auditor, resemble nothing so much as a cage of canaries chirping away to one another, and to us, for good life.
What they are chirping in this long-running Fringe Festival prizewinner now on the boards at the venerable SoHo Playhouse, is improvised on the spot in each performance part fiction, part fact, ever changing, drawn from their own actual lives or imagined lives as brainy New York Off-Off-Broadway actress-writers.
The words and actions shoes on, shoes off, an embrace, a punch on the arm, a shoulder massage, a rocket-like entrance or exit fly by too fast for anyone except a shorthand whizkid like the late Billy Rose to capture every nuance and inflection.
Here, however, are a few characteristic statements grasped by that same auditor as the words flew past at a recent performance:
“”I’m trying to look hip plus earthy and cool…”
“My book is gonna get published by Random House…An artist friend says that’s selling out…”
“I’d give my left arm to sell out.”
“A real live Manicorn [variant of Unicorn] is a man who’s perfect in every way. Loving husband. Sensitive. Does the dishes. Got a good job…”
“I wrote a little bitty book, that’s all…I’m more afraid of success than failure…People will start saying shit about me.”
“You want to share my therapy?”
“Well, I would like it if you were in my therapy.”
“You go to [the shrink] to get out of the house and away from the kids…”
“I should have a lover in my marriage.”
And did this same auditor really hear one of these fair maidens say to another: “You’re talking about my pussy and remembering it”?
“Yes,” said peppy (and peppery) Lynn Rosenberg over a chef’s salad, “that was me.” Across the table, fellow performer Lauren Seikaly nodded concurrence.
Who was the one who said: ‘I’d give my left arm to sell out?’ “
“That was me also. I think that every time I go for a commercial audition,” said the working actress in Lynn Rosenberg. “I’d be happy to squeeze the Charmin,” she tacked on wryly rubbing her palms together like Fagin in “Oliver Twist.”
The four basic stars of “Naked in a Fishbowl” three brunettes, one blonde--are tall, bosomy Katharine Heller as Sara (“the bossy one”); tall, slender Lauren Seikaly as Bonnie (the supersensitive one); golden-tressed Brenna Palughi as Sophie (the uptight gorgeous one) and our friend Lynn Rosenberg as Jean (the short one). “I’m always the short one.”
The three newer members of the company are Daliya Karnofsky, Molly Knefel, and D’Arcy Erokan a double-braided firecracker who was exploding left, right, and center in the show I saw.
Did any of you fellows know one another before all this started then called “What Women Talk About” during the Fringe of 2004?
“No,” said Lauren Seikaly, “”but we each knew one of these three new actresses.”
Listening in on all this was director and co-creator Hugh Sinclair who now outlined how the show had its origin when he and Wayne Parillo were making the movie “What Men Talk About” some few years ago.
The movie never got released, but Sinclair was so knocked out by what actresses Seikali, Heller, and Palughi had been improvising on the set that he decided to put them plus, later, Lynn Rosenberg on the stage, and let them go at it.
The first performances were at The Tank, on West 45th Street “and then Lauren and her husband Michael Huber decided to help us raise the money to do six shows at Gotham City Improv on West 23rd Street.”
From there it was no turning back.
How much of each performance is “real” based on actuality in these people’s private lives and how much is make-believe?
Ms. Rosenberg spoke up.
“I always say that Jean [the character she plays] is Lynn x 12. How about you?” she asked Lauren Seikaly. “50/40.”
“As the years go on,” said her colleague, “I feel more and more differences between the character and actuality. Say 70/30.”
The 70 percent being real life?
“No! No!” said Ms. Seikaly, raising her hands in self-protective horror. “The other way round.”
Does anything ever go wrong during a performance?
‘I don’t know that anything has ever gone wrong,” Seikaly said. “Maybe sometimes we don’t get so many laughs.”
Most and loudest of the laughter, it seems to this theatergoer’s eardrums, is bellowed from male vocal chords throughout the premises.
“If there’s a mistake, we use it,” said director Sinclair. “A mistake is when they sometimes use their real names [inadvertently].”
Does that happen often?
“Not very often.”
Real life sneaks in other ways, however. Lauren Seikaly is the real-life mother of a 4-year-old daughter and a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
“I’m actually thinking of bringing my year-and-a-half daughter on stage next week,” Seikaly said. “She was on stage with me when I was pregnant.”
Lynn Rosenberg piped up. “Lauren,” she said, “did practically her whole gestation period on stage.” Then, looking her comrade accusingly in the eye: “You were eight months pregnant, so you couldn’t play the virgin character.”
The particular performance that this auditor caught ended in a lengthy hugger-mugger of entrances and exits involving panic over a Gay Pride assemblage that was being picketed by a sign-carrying [imaginary] gay-hating personal assistant of one of these bright young women. And Security has now chained the doors of the whole building, for everybody’s safety. So nobody can go in or out of the [imaginary] locale, that is, not the SoHo Playhouse itself.
“What if we very gently took her sign away and asked her to meet with some gay people,” says one of the sweet canaries. “Don’t worry,” says another I think it was Lauren Seikaly “there are 500 gay men here who will take care of her.”
It brought down the house.