Screwball comedy is an art -- and it reached its apex in the Thirties. Cole Porter's 1933 Nymph Errant sets the genre to music. It's a frothy mix of racy innuendo (for the time) and exotic adventure, now at the Clurman Theater on off-Broadway's Theater Row.
Nymph Errant is the story of Evangeline Edwards (charmingly rendered by Jennifer Blood) who's just graduated finishing school with her chums: the plucky Pidge (Laura Cook), all-American girl Henrietta (terrific belter Sara Jayne Blackmore), coquette Madeline (Aubrey Sinn) and athletic Bertha (Amy Jo Jackson). Their teacher (Cady Huffman in a variety of roles) urges them to live fully -- and they follow her advice.
Eve ditches her intended (Andrew Brewer) and encounters, among others, a French producer, (Sorab Wadia), depressed Russian composer (Abe Goldfarb), and Greek tycoon as she ping pongs around Europe, running the gamut from virginal to lusty. And like all screwballs, she conveniently meets up with her pals en route. Porter mocks various elements, artistic and social, while encouraging women's sexual empowerment.
Reworked from the original, Nymph is a minor achievement in the canon of Anything Goes and Kiss Me Kate; it's just silly fun. The score is breezy; "Experiment" seems the anthem of the show -- and era -- aided by some strong interpolated songs, such as "Red, Hot and Blue" and "My Boyfriend Back Home."
That's thanks to a nicely directed young cast that's clearly enjoying themselves, while the men, like the accomplished Huffman, perform a variety of roles well. Nymph Errant employs a comic style that is dated by modern standards, but that doesn't negate its entertainment value. It's best described as a lark.
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