Cleopatra's Needle and Debutante

Cleopatra’s Needle on the Upper West Side is a no-cover-charge jazz haunt. French and Japanese tourists can be seen picking at their food (Middle Eastern salad platters and hamburgers, mostly). Drinks are not the strong point either: a frozen margarita, served in a milk shake glass, was half foam. Come here for open-mic night and the changing jazz ensemble.

If you were wondering where all the single men are in New York, they are lining the bar at Cleopatra’s Needle. The girls in Debutante would consider them “practice” and might learn about Chet Baker and John Coltrane in the process.
Debutante Rochelle Slovin, photo by Bailey Carr

Ryann Weir’s cheerful debut, Debutante, created and directed by Annie Tippe, takes place in the 80s of big hair, Tab and television's “Dynasty.” Three young heiresses stop their personal evolutions long enough to learn a complicated, antiquated, and highly questionable ritual. The disparities of rich and poor are not so much the topic as the tension between tradition and moving forward. Keilly McQuail is Barbara, a third-generation debutante living with her grandmother, Sylvia (Rochelle Slovin, pictured), who teaches her the cotillion dip and “People who uphold tradition are impervious to change.”

Elizabeth Alderfer, Keilly McQuail and Anna Abhau Elliott can curtsy
Brenda (Elizabeth Alderfer) wants to run off with the Indian foreign exchange student (Eshan Bay) and skip the cotillion, but first shoot her parents so they’ll never know. Extreme dieters, offered a carrot stick Brenda says, “No thanks, I’m allergic.”

Frankie (the charming Anna Abhau Elliott), an equestrian, also knows what she likes, and it’s not the debutante world. She gives a  rousing eulogy to her late show horse, a “Polish-Arabian” (there really is such a breed). Money can’t buy you love, unless you can afford a Polish-Arabian.