Stage Review

Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage (2010)

Image credit: Carol Rosegg
EW's GRADE
A-

Details Opening Date: Oct 24, 2010; Lead Performances: Manuel Herrera and Eve Plumb; Writers: Ken Davenport, Sarah Saltzberg; Director: Ken Davenport; Genre: Comedy

You can't help but fall instantly in love with the Off Broadway production of Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage, which stars The Brady Bunch's Eve Plumb (yep, Jan Brady!) as a retro relationship maven doling out advice about how to improve your love life. The show is simple and, at less than 90 minutes, blessedly short. Plumb appears on a petite, comfy stage made to look like a personal library, wears a sensible suit, and — alongside her hot Latino assistant, Paco (Manuel Herrera) — offers her sagacious instruction.

Dating in the workplace? ''You shouldn't get your honey where you get your money,'' she deadpans. Men and their wallets? ''Don't be stingy with money,'' she offers. ''Be a generous provider.'' A woman's approach to a relationship? ''Don't try to boss him around,'' she says, with a wink. ''Let him think he wears the pants.'' As you can tell, all of Miss Abigail's advice skews a little old school, but that's entirely the point — and also why the script, from the clever minds of Ken Davenport (Altar Boyz) and Sarah Saltzberg (25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), works so well. Press materials describe Plumb's Miss Abigail as ''Dr. Ruth meets Emily Post,'' and it's a spot-on designation.

It can be difficult to discern whether the show is set in the 1950s or if Miss Abigail is a throwback eclipsed by the fast-moving world but nonetheless clinging to the outmoded advice she's doling out. Based on her references to Angelia Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Celine Dion (she counsels them all privately) — as well as the Internet — she's sitting very squarely in modern times. But despite the apparent anachronisms, Miss Abigail is pure fun.

Other elements enhance the show. Audience members are routinely brought on stage for quick improv segments; handouts (ridiculously cute business-card-size sheets filled with advice!) are passed out; and a spicy subplot focuses on the budding, cougar-ific lust fiftysomething Miss Abigail has for the much younger Paco. Those touches — along with the sugary, archaic opinions that Plumb delivers with deft timing, a wink, and a nudge — make Miss Abigail's Guide worth following. A–

(Tickets: missabigailsguide.com or 877-964-7722)

Originally posted Oct 22, 2010