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‘N. Y. Romance’ a Musical Romp

Based on a thin premise--a young woman’s romantic travails in the Big Apple--Mary Setrakian’s one-woman song-fest “A New York Romance,” at Coast Playhouse, is transparently a showcase. But when a pyrotechnical chanteuse like Setrakian is shown to such dazzling advantage, one can forgive the flimsiness of the plot.

Accompanied by pianist Todd Schroeder, Setrakian delivers dozens of numbers, ranging from opera to show tunes to the Beatles, in a powerful belt voice that will knock you clear into next week. Director Jeffrey M. Wilson artfully harnesses Setrakian’s apparently boundless energy, injecting enough gently self-deprecating humor to erase the vague outlines of a vanity production.

The action takes place entirely in the apartment of lovelorn Maddy Madison (Setrakian), and the nonstop musical medley serves as a wry, blow-by-blow commentary on Maddy’s unlucky current romance. Mundane moments in Maddy’s life are plumbed for maximum laughs. After a painful jilting, Setrakian soulfully croons: “They’re writing songs of love, but not for me,” while rhythmically crunching potato chips, her comfort food of choice.

It’s this kind of playfulness, the juxtaposition of the heartfelt with the offbeat, that makes Setrakian’s show work, despite its preponderance of cliches. A canny crowd-pleaser, Setrakian sustains full vocal power even when performing aerobics--no mean feat--and makes the simple act of applying body lotion a hilariously torrid come-on.

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* “A New York Romance,” Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends Aug. 23. $25-$30. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.


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