'The Curvy Widow': Inspiration for Every Mid-Life Crisis

curvy widow
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy

Christopher Shyer, Nancy Opel, and Alan Muaoka in "Curvy Widow."

“Getting laid is a medical directive.” As astounding as it may seem, this is the doctor’s prescription for Bobby Goldman, a recently widowed woman. Tony-nominated Nancy Opel stars as Bobby, who loses her husband in her mid-fifties and enters the dating scene shortly after. Directed by Peter Flynn, the show is running Off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre in New York City through the end of the year.

Strutting out on stage in sparkling pearls and an embroidered blazer, Bobby radiates confidence and charm in the opening musical number, “Under Control.” Her life turns blue with the stage lights, however, as tolling bells signal her husband’s death and, suddenly, “everything is not under control.” But she is Bobby Goldman after all, and the song quickly recovers from the bridge as Bobby regains what she thinks is control of her life.

Starting life anew, “White Box Loft” effectively portrays the process of physical and emotional rebuilding: Bobby trades her Upper East Side penthouse for a brick-walled loft downtown, her blazers for leather jackets. She announces that she’s finally about to live the life of “the young and the hip instead of the old and the hipless.”

Bobby’s dead husband, Jim, reappears as a ghost throughout the musical, always clad in a robe reminiscent of Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Past. Ken Land exhibits a lackluster spirit in the role, as perhaps his character exhibits for Bobby. He haunts Bobby at her weakest points—before her first Match.com date, on a lonely Christmas Eve night, and right after she denies a new lover’s request to move in. Jim’s appearance each time, though unwelcome, is a strategic reminder that Bobby has yet to move on from her familiar past.

The ensemble pieces shine in their clean execution and a unified flair amongst the supporting cast. As Bobby stumbles through unsuccessful date after date, she opens up her pool to married men, “Looking For.” Meanwhile, Bobby’s girlfriends swoon and chatter over her new man, Per Se (Christopher Shyer), as they kick and squat through Marcos Santana’s clean choreography of a cardio burn Wednesday class in “The One.” Her loyal companions, Caroline (Andrea Bianchi), Heidi (Elizabeth Ward Land), and Joan (Aisha de Haas) circle around and comfort her during her loss, offering her steak dinners and desserts, but ultimately portray friendships that are shallow, unsupportive “girl-flirting.”

The story, adapted from Bobby Goldman’s autobiography, shines under Drew Body’s witty lyrics. As Bobby creates her Match.com profile, she sings, “Height? 5’6. Weight? F*** off!” Crude humor makes its way throughout the lyrics, but Bobby’s age and wanna-be-sexy dance moves keep the characters demure.

Though several decades older, Bobby’s lovable clumsiness and soul-searching adventures make her a relatable figure for the young struggling college student. After all, though college may be too early for most to become widows, it’s certainly a time for adolescents to confront quintessential life crises and embrace their curvy selves.

— Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at lucy.wang@thecrimson.com

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