Nearly every one-person show on a Hollywood stage has a significant “blah-blah-blah” portion that gets the actor from “I left my home” (usually in the Midwest) to “then I found happiness” or became an actor or fell in love. The “blah-blah-blah” is generally the cliched audition woes, waitressing tasks, unwanted advances, poverty and so on; the less time spent on the “blah-blah-blah,” the better. Adria Tennor’s life story is not that different from others, but when the “blah-blah-blah” stops and we’re in a stripping class, her show “Strip Search” begins to have something to say.
In the “blah-blah-blah” section, Andrea starts as a schoolgirl at Grandma’s house in Michigan; we hear the standard stories about her fear of intimacy as a high school and college kid in Baltimore. She does the standard actress bit: moves to New York and works as a coat-check girl, then tries L.A. and becomes, what else, a waitress.
Once she gives up on sex and therapy, though, “Strip Search” starts to rely a little too much on the truth here. She needs to bend some facts, express more anger or add more jokes to the show’s early going; it’s too static.
When she connects the monologue’s opening with the finale, she hits a sweet note that would pierce the audience’s collective heart if she toyed with the story.
Best moments come in her explaining the cathartic experience of strip class and working the pole. And she nicely dovetails the class experience with a budding romance.
“Strip Search” is structured to get the aud to cheer her on and root for her to find love; when she finally displays her pole-dancing and stripping skills, it goes on too long. We want to hear about the new relationship.
There’s a solid half-hour in the piece that could be expanded into a solid hour with ebbs and flows in the drama. Director Melora Hardin, a regular on NBC’s “The Office,” has given Tennor a special structure to work within that greatly aids the piece in its current condition.