IF YOU GO
What: One-man show based on the an American writer's experience creating a musical version of "Desperately Seeking Susan"
When: 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28 & 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2
Where: Foulds Theater at the Lee County Alliance of the Arts complex, 10091 McGregor Boulevard, Fort Myers
Cost: $10 on Jan. 28; $20 on Feb. 2
Information: 239-936-3239 or theatreconspiracy.org
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FORT MYERS — Peter Michael Marino likes Blondie.
Peter Michael Marino likes "Desperately Seeking Susan."
Peter Michael Marino likes London. The self-described "kid from Queens" even calls himself an "Angloholic."
Peter Michael Marino got the best of all worlds in 2007. He got to live in London for two years writing a musical version of "Desperately Seeking Susan," using the songs of Blondie, that premiered in the West End.
London, or more specifically its theatre critics, as it turns out, did not like Peter Michael Marino.
"Desperately Seeking Susan," bankrolled at $6M, crashed and burned on the London stage. The show was savaged by critics and announced its closing just 13 days after opening.
"It was an unfortunate collision of British and American cultures" Marino admits, quite cheerfully, when reached by phone from New York. "The critics were especially sassy to Americans."
Yet, from the ashes of failure rose the phoenix of success. Marino kept a blog during the entire two and a half-year experience of working on the show. In his own words, he decided to "turn it from a tragedy to a comedy."
The result, "Desperately Seeking the Exit," a one-man exploration of the failure of "Desperately Seeking Susan," plays two nights in Fort Myers on Jan. 28 and February 2 at the Alliance for the Arts. Both performances are at 8 p.m.; tickets are $10 for the Jan. 28 show, $20 for Feb. 2. (On the Web site: seekingtheexit.com | facebook.com/ DesperatelySeekingTheExit)
The title comes from one of the most scathing reviews in the London press, where a writer claimed he was "desperately seeking the exit" during the show. Marino calls it "one of the best worst reviews ever!"
In "Desperately Seeking The Exit" he talks about working with British actors vs. American actors, living in London for more than two years, the frustrations of email, critics, British food and more about how a big musical is put together.
There were positives to the experience. Marino said that working with the actors was the best part of his experience in London, even though he found British actors a bit different than American actors.
"British actors put the story first," he said.
"The work that went into putting up that show was hell," Marino said. He doesn't want to re-tell the story in our interview, but promises a fast and humorous night.
"Audiences can expect a lot of laughs," Marino said. "This is not a bitter, sour grapes type of show."
One thing audiences can expect? A little peroxide. Marino opted to take the story of "Desperately Seeking Susan" back to 1979 - and use the music of Blondie.
Marino said that the 1985 film "had these scenes of characters wanting something desperately." He also wanted to farther explore the iconic imagery of the Jersey suburbs.
"The first though I had when listening to Blondie was these songs were about wanting something," Marino said. "What could we possibly hang these songs on?"
Marino hopes that audiences who come to see his show might laugh, might be entertained, and might even be moved in some way.
"When you go to a theatre, you want to feel something," he said. "If they want to feel me, they can!"