I’ve been waiting to see a staged production of The Last Smoker in America since first hearing selections from the score in 2005. Alice Ripley and my brilliant friend Nick Cearley, among others, were singing songs by the fantastic Bill Russell at The Duplex (I believe) in 2005 (or it could’ve been 2006, I can’t remember).
Taking place in a distant America where smoking laws are incredibly strict and smokers are being punished with with jail time, Pam, the last smoker in America, is trying hard to quit and also be there for her family. Easy laughs are garnered whenever possible, but there is also a lot of heart in this 90-minute musical jaunt through smoke-free time.
I was sad when I realized that Russell had cut the song “I’ve Got a Gun” (click to see Nick Cearley sing a jazzy version of the song in 2010). It was one of my favorites and instead of Jimmy, Pam’s son, being a sugar and video game addicted kid in need of ritalin, his character was turned into a wanna-be thug. Not nearly as funny, if you ask me.
Farah Alvin (Pam) channels her inner crazy effectively, though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little curious as to how Ripley would’ve handled the character. John Bolton (as Pam’s husband, Ernie) was almost equally as crazy but also comical because his character was a failed wanna-be rockstar. Jake Boyd (as Jimmy) did his best with the re-written character but sometimes it was simply unbelievable that he’d want to be a thug. Providing the most laughs was Natalie Venetia Belcon as their anti-smoking, adulterating neighbor Phyllis.
The Last Smoker is a quick, entertaining 90 minutes in an off-Broadway theatre.