Emily Windler is a Rogue veteran with two solid shows (“Poe and Matthews” and “Gary Has a Date”) under her belt in Fresno, and she returns in “Opera Frantique” to focus her considerable physical comedy skills on a subject ripe for skewering. There’s potential here for a memorable character and a crescendo of laughs, but this aria just keeps getting thinner, finally running out of air.
Windler’s character, Christina Pescalla, is on her farewell concert tour, and she’s here to sing some famous arias and share recollections from her storied career. Dressed in a black strapless evening gown, wide red scarf and white elbow-length gloves, Windler makes the most of her grand entrance when she gets the back of the dress caught on the side of the stage. She excels at small comic moments like these, and as she fumbles up there on stage, periodically yanking up her dress and fumbling with her scarf, the laughs build.
Windler is so good at physical comedy, in fact, that I kept hoping for a lot more of it in “Opera Frantique.” But this show wants to be both a comedy and an opera recital, and the two parts fight with each other. Windler does her own singing, and while she has a trained — and very strong, if not always in control — voice, it’s not impressive enough to carry a performance by itself. Yet as the show builds, the comic moments slip away. The production feels rough and unfinished. Instead of a fully realized character, we get a half realized recital. (Windler told the audience after her bow that this was the show’s first performance.)
What the show needs is more recollections, more secondary characters (Windler creates a memorable teacher), more pointed opera jokes (there’s so much that can be done poking fun at opera plots and rituals) and a better handle on who Christina Pescalla is. (Is she doddering? Mediocre? So brilliant she can afford to slip up? Or just eccentric?) It needs more snippets of singing and less full-length arias. And, lastly and most important, a director. (See my “Steve Seabrook: Better Than You” review.) Windler could offer a diva-worthy performance in a reworked show, but she has a ways to go.
Details: 8 p.m. march 6, 6:30 p.m. March 7, 2 and 8 p.m. March 8, Strummer’s. $10 in Rogue Bucks.