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Dorothy Parker’s Last Call

Busboys and Poets, 5th & K Streets NW

Remaining Performances:

Friday, July 9, at noon and 8 p.m. Saturday, July 10, at 10 p.m. Sunday, July 11, at 6 p.m.

They Say: Poet, critic, author, activist and member of the infamous Algonquin Round Table, Dorothy Parker delighted in skewering the culture of early Twentieth Century. This original one-woman show is a dynamic exploration of the life of America’s first lady of wit.

Trey’s Take: Dutiful, sure, and clearly affectionate; dynamic, I don’t know about. The lady’s “last call” — not a bad title, that, given that it’s about a famous drinker with a serious writing problem — is framed as a kind of press conference from beyond the grave, with brief barroom digressions, and I guess that makes as much sense as any other approach. In something less than the advertised 70 minutes, a solo performer (who’ll go nameless, as there’s no playbill) deploys dozens of Parker’s best-known quips, along with passages from her light verse, as she sketches out the highs and lows of a life famous as much for the latter — two husbands and three suicide attempts — as for the former. Not that the highs were chopped liver. Gigs at Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, a bit of playwriting, a Hollywood screenwriting stint, and of course that famous seat among the Vicious Circle: nothing to sneer at there, unless of course you’re the perpetually self-scorning Parker, who notes bleakly in the show’s most touching moment that she’s no Hemingway, no Fitzgerald. “They were the giants,” says a woman who roared her way through the Twenties and who ran with them both. And you want to say, “Sure, but you wrote tighter, and got more out of almost every word.”

See It If: The mordant witticism is mother’s milk to you — or you simply need a fond introduction to the lady who observed that “Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.”

Skip It If: You’ve seen Jennifer Jason Leigh‘s version — “Me ow, too,” she improvised when a cat wandered into a scene — and liked it.