A cautionary fairytale of unrequited love in ‘Prince Charming, You’re Late’ Off-Broadway at Theatre Row

In TigerBear Productions’ world premiere of Prince Charming, You’re Late at Off-Broadway’s Theatre Row, writer/performer Billy Hipkins, a veteran Broadway dresser with 27 shows to his credit to date, combines the literary tradition of a children’s fairytale with the psychological probing of a self-help therapy session to examine the unrequited love and obsession he felt for his real-life workplace crush – the perfect man, pseudonymously called “Jeff,” who was handsome and charming and just happened to be half his age, straight, and attached to an equally perfect girlfriend.

Billy Hipkins. Photo courtesy of TigerBear Productions.

Under the engaging and animated direction of Perry Dell’Aquila, Hipkins takes us on a journey through his childhood fantasies of escaping to his imaginary ivory tower and being rescued by a gallant prince from his hetero-normative community of commoners in Verona, NJ, where he doesn’t fit in and feels threatened by the metaphorical dragons and ogres that bully him. Cleverly referencing such mid-century pop-culture favorites as the 1965 Mystery Date board game and the songs “I Wish I Were a Princess” and “My Teenage Castle” by Little Peggy Marsh (recorded in 1963, which, he notes, was “a time before the empowered princess movement”), he reads from his fairytale tome, written in the romantic style of the originals, and cites definitions of “charming” from an actual dictionary (in a time before Google). Throughout his youthful memories, he playfully prances around the stage (the efficient scenic design by Jerome Joseph Gentes, with Mark Finley and Michael David Bourque, contains well-chosen objects from both his early years and his later profession) and embodies in voice and demeanor the princesses with which he identified.

But it’s not all waltzes and princess dresses (though he does don a reversible one, along with long blond tresses of yarn that he feigns brushing). We also hear the bittersweet strains of “Greensleeves,” the 16th-century English ballad of lost love (more than once, to his dismay), as he takes us into his adulthood and recounts his happy encounter, hopeless infatuation, and growing fixation with an actor he dresses and befriends. The self-referencing descriptions of his backstage work in the wardrobe department and his meta-theatrical breaks through the fourth wall for sound and lighting requests (technical direction by Cosette Pin; lighting by Joyce Liao) ground the show in reality, as do Hipkins’ range of emotions, from giddy and lovestruck to pained, angry, and devastated by the realization that his fantasy is just that.

Billy Hipkins. Photo courtesy of TigerBear Productions.

It takes him a while (maybe a little too long, as the content of the 70-minute show becomes a bit redundant and could use some edits) to figure out that these are not the makings of the happily-ever-after ending he longed for, ultimately using his laptop to Google the object of his desire, virtually stalking him and uncovering the love “Jeff” has found with his significant other “Laura” (also a pseudonym). But Hipkins’ solo performance is expressive, humorous, soul-bearing, and endearing, and relatable to anyone who’s ever experienced an impossible, desperate, unreciprocated attraction.

Running Time: Approximately 70 minutes, without intermission.

Prince Charming, You’re Late plays through Saturday, July 23, 2022, at Theatre Two at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $25-$75, plus fees), go online. Everyone must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination and a photo ID to enter the building and must wear a mask at all times when inside.


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