Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Taming of the Shrew

The directorial concept of this production of Shakespeare's comedy is that it's being improvised backstage by a troupe of USO performers. There is a palpable pleasure in watching the actors (sometimes) succeed at making the Bard's words seem to come to them spontaneously (especially because the small cast covers almost two dozen roles) but the price for this small pleasure is too high: the play itself becomes a muddle. Why, additionally, is Petruchio stomping around in a military uniform and why is that rebel hellcat Kate now played by a man in a not at all feminine fashion? I spent way too much time trying to tease out which odd choices were deliberate and which were accidents, and the result was that I didn't enjoy the play I already knew, nor did I get any fresh insights from this distortion of it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

In The Heights

This new musical with Broadway hopes takes place in, and concerns some (mostly Hispanic) peeps of, Washington Heights. Too often the musical's loose multi-character vibe feels like it's been blueprinted on Rent, but as it lacks that show's galvanizing social message and its gravity, its stories feel awfully trite. The first forty minutes are a washout in terms of storytelling - even with a fair dose of athletic, pulsing choreography and a lively number here and there (half the score is fresh quasi-rap: good; the other half is blandly earnest standard issue old school pop: bad) it gets tiresome soaking up the local color when we don't have a framing story to latch on to. When the main story does come into eventual focus it puts nothing at stake: a girl returns to the neighborhood to spare her family the expense of college, but it's hard to care with no indication that she is anything but happy about it. When we learn (near the end of the first act, in the show's best song "96,000") that someone in the neighborhood has won the lottery and will get out of the Heights, it reveals this show's biggest mistake: it's too gentle to make this 'hood look like anything some of its cute characters would want to escape from.

The Silent Concerto

Now more than ever, because of this race, I'm seeing theater left and right. But I would sooner lose than see another show as unfinished and irregularly acted in as The Silent Concerto. I'm rarely harsh on new work, but when a play throws in references to Beckett and Lorca simply as a means of covering up its own clumsiness, I lose patience. Perhaps if the performers were better, I wouldn't be so down on Alejandro Morales' script or Scott Ebersold's direction, but this evening left me with very little to leave the theater with. I was counting on Fringe darling Susan Louise O'Connor to liven things up, but she's reduced to a few bland one-liners, and entangled with two very misguided actors, one of whom (Julian Stekevych) should win the award for most stereotypes in a character.

His performance, like the play, is very much a gloss, and leaves the audience in absolute apathy for everything that happens to him. That the show doesn't make much sense either, well, that's just icing on the mud cake. And I don't mean that in a good way.

[Read on]

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Be(a)st Of Taylor Mac

La Mama

From the outrageous look of this creature in the press photos I assumed I was in for an evening of Hedwig/Kiki style thrash cabaret. To my surprise, Taylor Mac is far more subdued and operated on a more introspective level. Strumming on a ukelele, Taylor sang wonderful little dittys about politics, dudes, and general malaise. This depressed, yet hopeful, drag queen was really no drag queen at all, but a sweet damaged gay boy hiding behind a mask of sequins. I wanted to give him a hug.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Drowsy Chaperone

I don't love Drowsy - it doesn't come close to fulfilling the promise of its nifty concept, it celebrates the most banal thing about musicals (escapism), almost all its songs are throwaways, and I'm annoyed rather than charmed by the antisocial pathos of its narrating main character. But, on a second visit, I could put all that aside and just enjoy the knock-'em-dead energy of the ensemble and the fun, cartoony performances in the show within the show. They've gotten even more (delightfully) over the top since I saw a preview almost a year ago. While Sutton Foster and Beth Leavel are especially terrif, as is newcomer Peter Bartlett (replacing Eddie Hibbert and getting laughs out of thin air), the surprise for me was Danny Burstein. He's perfected his cheesey, grandiose Aldolpho to the point where his first scene gets applause even without a song. That's purrrrrrr-worthy stuff.

Also blogged by: [David]

The Drowsy Chaperone


This was my fifth visit to The Drowsy Chaperone. It's starting to get embarassing and it needs to stop. No, not Drowsy, my show stalking. I just can't help it though. It's such fun and a safe bet for a thumbs up when I have an out of town guest who wants to see a Broadway show. The production is holding up remarkably well and Danny Burstein as "Aldofo" continues to go further over the top each time I return. As well he should.

Also blogged by: [Patrick]

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Voysey Inheritance

David Mamet's efficiently streamlined adaptation of Harley Granville Barker's morality play is tastefully intelligent and, as it concerns financial wrongdoings somewhat analogous to recent scandals such as Enron, it's also timely. Why then did I find it so damned boring? I can't fault the actors: Michael Stuhlbarg, in particular, is excellent: he centers the play with an appropriately brow-knotted performance to depict a deeply moral man struggling with the nuanced realities of right and wrong. Maybe I found the play so tiresome because I never got swept up in the nuances that had to be considered: no matter what the play did to muddy the waters, right and wrong always seemed clear to me.

Also blogged by: [David]

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Two Trains Running

Signature is two for two so far in their three-play season of August Wilson plays: as with the previous Seven Guitars, this production is just about ideal. There isn't a weak member in this ensemble - everyone here knows how to make Wilson's quasi-poetic language and his jazz-riff rhythms sound like speech, and all the performances are in scale with the others: no one is trying to unduly dominate. Wilson's deceptively relaxed pace (which disguises the play's tight structure, while it creates the illusion that we are watching life lazily happen before our eyes) can be frustrating in a bad production, but in a superb one such as this the deliberate pace is thrilling. It lets us breathe and appreciate each moment, not fully aware of the play's sneaking, cumulative emotional impact. The play, which takes place in a run-down diner in the Pittsburgh slums in the '60s, has been directed (by Lou Bellamy) with sustained intelligence and a keen eye for detail. After the intermission, the smell of diner cooking fills the theatre: I didn't mind, but the truth is that this production is so vivid and immediate that I didn't need it. They had already convinced me I was in that diner with them.

Also blogged by: [David] [Christopher]

Two Trains Running


This was a near perfect production of a near perfect play. Clocking in at a butt-numbing three hours and ten minutes I was worried that I wouldn't stay with it. Not a chance. This vibrant character study of a bunch of coffee shop regulars in Pittsburgh in 1969 drew me in and still hasn't let go. In this production, unlike other August Wilson plays where the ladies sometimes take a back seat to the male characters, the brilliant January LaVoy as the wary, slow motion waitress in the school bus yellow uniform was the searing focal point.

Also blogged by: [Christopher] [Patrick]

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Silence may be set in the Dark Ages, but don't mistake its comic intentions. At the same time, don't underestimate the undercurrent of unrest that playwright Moira Buffini paints regarding class struggle, gender identity, and tyranny. The only problem with Silence is that as it trundles along, the comedy becomes more and more enmeshed with the drama, and characters who were once amusing grow bogged down with bitterness. It's not a major complaint, for the actors are competent in both comic and serious roles, but it resembles the same problem that the show has: finding the right transition from one scene to the next; heck, finding the right transition within the scenes, what with all the jumping from narration to action. Still, the pacing is as straightforward as the religious banter, and Silence is at least worth talking about.

The Color Purple

I had mixed feelings about this musical version of the Alice Walker novel when I saw it in early previews: too much and too sloppy exposition, and not enough heart and soul. There've been some changes since, and while all are for the better, I still feel this is a show that hasn't found a clear throughline that needs to sing. The highlights are exactly what I remembered them to be: Felicia P. Fields' brassy performance as Sofia (her "Hell No" number midway through the first act is the first thing that rallies the audience from its Respectful Adaptation Blues), Elisabeth Withers-Mendes' portrayal of Shug Avery (her too-brief love song "Too Beautiful For Words" is one of the few things I found truly affecting in the show), the moment when Celie mouths a thank you to the heavens after she first falls in love with Shug (a welcome first in a family-friendly musical), and the first burst of choreography by the menfolk at the juke joint.

Also blogged by: [Christopher]

Monday, January 22, 2007

Invincible Summer

Under The Radar Festival

This was a 70 minute Spalding Gray style monologue about... What was it about?.... Well, I guess lots of things: moving to New York, family, 9-11, the subway system. Though it could have been a little more focused, I really responded to this work due to the enormous likability that Mike Daisey exuded. His polite, unpretentious humor made his stories very interesting and very listenable.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Gutenberg! The Musical!

The only way to get to Carnegie Hall might be practice, but the way to Broadway is with lasers, a million drunks, and the Holocaust. In the meantime, the miles and miles of heart of Bud Davenport and Doug Simon (played by Christopher Fitzgerald and Jeremy Shamos, in roles originated and written by Scott Brown and Anthony King), are more than enough to get Gutenberg! The Musical! an extended off-Broadway run. And with good cause: this highly entertaining show uses the conceit that Bud and Doug are earnest writers hoping to transfer their work of historical fiction (i.e.., "Fiction that's true") to Broadway. This industry parody wouldn't work anywhere else (the remixed Cast Recording that follows the curtain call is lots of laughs), though irrelevant songs (like "Biscuits") work all on their own charm. Really, what's not to love?

[Read on] [Also bloggedy by: David]

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Famous Puppet Death Scenes

The Old Trouts

People For The Ethical Treatment Of Puppets had better not catch wind of this show otherwise The Old Trouts are in some serious trouble. These poor, beautifully crafted puppets get stomped, devoured, gunned down, stabbed, etc. in this series of vingettes that all end with a death. Mostly jokey with a fair amount of sincerity, this meditation on mortality often had you rooting for the poor S.O.B.s demises. The more painful the better! Other times it broke your heart or at least made you feel all introspective and philosophical. Of particular note was the enormous amount of personality these puppeteers were able to imbue their characters with. Puppet shows are fun.

At Least It's Pink


Mae West is alive and well and performing at Ars Nova. She has changed her name to Bridget Everett but she is as scandalous as she ever was. Taking swigs off a bottle of chardonnay she swaggers about in nothing but a corset, a thong and fishnets and wails about getting effed in the butt. I was in heaven of course. This is a hot, thrilling musical journey and I highly recommend it. There is a special place in my heart for gay men trapped in women's bodies (i.e. Kathy Griffin, Sandra Bernhard) and I think if Bridget had actually been born a man I would have totally hooked up with her by now.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Under The Radar: "A Beautiful View" and "Famous Puppet Death Scenes"

Ah, and this is why a well-curated theater festival is the best thing in the world. I got the chance to meet Mark Russell and speak to him about what he calls "new theater on iPod Shuffle mode"; better still was the opportunity to see two fully mounted productions: Daniel MacIvor's A Beautiful View and Old Trout Puppet Workshop's delightful Famous Puppet Death Scenes.

I raved about MacIvor's Never Swim Alone during the '06 Fringe Festival: I do it again for his new show. Not only does MacIvor know how to direct cinematically, but he can do it without a set. He catches his cast of two in-love-and-then-out-of-love-again women like deer in headlights, vulnerable and true, and we need only use imagination to see the characters camping in the middle of the woods, dancing at a bar, or performing in their rock band "Uklear" (their armed with ukuleles). The excellent performances from Tracy Wright and Caroline Gillis solidify it: I've said that theater is really just about storytelling, and that's what A Beautiful View is. A sad story in the vein of Brokeback Mountain, but more than that, an honest accounting of two lives for which "nothing is enough." (Read into that quote whichever way you want.)

[Read on]

As for Famous Puppet Death Scenes, if you saw The Fortune Teller or, to a lesser extent, The Rapture Project, this may not be essential theater. But you should see it anyway. Old Trout goes for cheap laughs at first, but only to set you up for the deeper punch of more affecting scenes: what they've managed to express with puppets is incredible. Each vignette features a twist-worthy death, but part of that twist is the presentation, which includes a magnified monster butterfly, a pop-up book that shows domestic violence, a moving set that reveals what happens to children who like to dress up as deer, and several foreign language pieces that are more than crystal clear. "The Last Whale" is nothing more than the heavy, dulling eye of a giant whale, with a thousand years of life summed up into one sagging eyelid and a moment of silence.

[Read on]

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Girl In The Goldfish Bowl

kef productions

Google the title and you'll notice that this is one of those plays that is starting to catch on in terms of regional productions and awards. kev productions is picking up on this momentum and has taken the first exploratory steps to bring this wacky absurdist comedy to New York by presenting a couple of staged readings, one of which I caught yesterday. A very verbose ten year old (played by an adult. I love it when adults play kids) is convinced that the cuban missile crisis and other catastrophies were brought about by the death of her goldfish. It is a very fun and suprisingly moving play and I look forward to the New York premiere.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Little Dog Laughed

I didn't expect to enjoy this sharply satirical play about a vicious Hollywood agent-cum-producer until I realized, after the male prostitute decides not to leave the Hollywood star who has hired and subsequently fallen asleep on him, that The Little Dog Laughed was actually about that elusive thing called happiness. The rollicking script is punched up for laughs, but it's Julie White's perfect timing and her deliveries of Douglas Carter Beane's metaphors that tie everything together. ("My word? You're asking a whore for her cherry!" or "Talking to you is as hard as sowing a button on cottage cheese.") Scott Ellis has directed a swift and substantial production, and I found the rest of the current cast (Tom Everett Scott and Johnny Galecki as the lovers, Ari Graynor as the saucy "girlfriend") to be a highly capable bunch, though I can't say that Galecki's squealing voice didn't annoy me. Also, the ending caught me by surprise: not because it wasn't obvious, but because it actually affected me: all that illusion, all that bullshit . . . can't anybody just love anymore?

[Read on]

Also blogged by: [David] [Christopher] [Patrick]

Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living In Paris

I needn't have worried that this revue (one of my favorite shows in town) would lose its spark almost a year into its run: this was one of the best performances of the show I've seen yet. I can't say I didn't miss Natascia Diaz (who's left the show to do Carnival in DC) but her replacement, Jayne Paterson, sings passionately and chooses restraint and stillness to great effect. I have to hand it to Robert Cuccioli and Gay Marshall - they've been at this for nearly a year but you'd never know it from their emotionally-charged, vocally impressive performances. (An added bonus was that this particular audience was keenly appreciative: bravo's and brava's greeted "Amsterdam," "Marieke," and several other numbers.) The show has a new musical director (its third?) in Rick Hip-Flores, who is fun to watch and obviously capable. The big question mark was the stunt casting of American Idol also-ran Constantin Maroulis: he gets the material, he's relaxed and natural on stage, he sings with great feeling, and he pulled off "Next" more convincingly than anyone else I've seen. He fits right in.

The Monument

It's sad to see a decent play brought down by its actors. The Monument has some nice things to say about war, from heavy handed parallels to subtle battles of wills, and even better observations to make about characters trying to cope with their circumstances. The staging here, by Clockwork Theater, is also pretty cool: I enjoyed the solemn excavation of corpses from a dirt-covered stage. But two-handers, like solo shows, rely far more on individual personalities than ensemble shows (in which caricatures are more passable). The two here, Jay Rohloff and Ramona Floyd, each have a few moments of elegance, but the rest of their acting eats the stage's dust (literally).

[Read on]

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Apple Tree

I didn't plan on seeing this again - especially not this week, as I'm seeing Kristin Chenoweth's concert at the Met on Friday - but fifth row on the aisle, after comps for something else fell through? Done, said this show-glutton. Nothing to change my original impression, but I did want to note how super-stereo nifty the orchestra sounds downstairs center, where the division of musicians (who play in the boxes, left and right) can be best appreciated.

The Vietnamization Of New Jersey

The Alchemy Theatre Company

There is nothing like a Durang. Dishes fly, walls come down and epithets like "tar baby" and "gook" roll off the tongue with ease in this wacky, surreal world that Durang has created (decades before Southpark). And this 30 year old satire about middle class American sensibility and wartime imperialism could not be any more relevant. This spirited Alchemy production cannonballed into this play with hilarious effect. Cast standouts Corey Sullivan as the blind soldier turned peacenik Buddhist and Michael Cyril Creighton as the priest with questionable sexuality were pretty effin hysterical. HGA!

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Polish Play

The Polish Play, a mash-up of Macbeth (the Scottish play) and Ubu Roi, is a fun theatrical jaunt. The second half drags a little as the inspired fusions peter out, but it picks up again with Pere Ubu's climactic, shiter-hook wielding showdown. Jarry's Ubu Roi was already modeled on Macbeth, so the conflation of both isn't a stretch, but what it does is make Macbeth into a comedy. One murderous scene is set to saloon music and features puppet bodies with human heads channeling the Stooges. Some technical kinks at this early preview performance, but Jordan Gelber (of Avenue Q) and his "green syphilitic penis" push bravely through. There's a lot being mocked in this production, from the set design (unwieldy pieces being moved around like Tetris pieces) to gender reversal and bad accents. I particularly like the openness of the show: the Foley Artist (sound-effects guy) is as much a part of the show as the actors, and all the props, costumes, and even scene-changing instructions are posted on the walls. Granted, Henry Wishcamper probably could've done as much by simply reviving Ubu Roi, but there's something mesmerizing about an obese Macbeth fleeing an enraged Macduff, and the laughs justify the means.

[Read on]

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Vietnamization of New Jersey

Rag-tag, tasteless,, zany and poltically incorrect: that's Christopher Durang's somewhat surreal farce from 1977 that has been revived by the Alchemy Theatre Company. The place is one of those middle-class American households that playwrights used to love to throw darts at (this family lives, literally, in a suburban house made out of a giant cereal box) and the time is the late '60s (when the son's off fighting in Vietnam) to the mid-'70s (when he's back for the Ford-era recession). The play is about as high-minded as a Mad Magazine strip, and it's a product of its time, a socio-political lampoon that surely had topicality on its side when it was written. Still, that's part of what makes it a fun play to revisit: its free-wheeling farcical assault on the attitudes of its day makes it a rip-roarin' hoot in a time capsule, and as it refreshingly sends up left wing liberal guilt just as eagerly as it rails against right wing warmongering, it has the added bonus of being neither politically correct nor predictable. This production takes some time to get going - not everyone in the cast is able to nail this distinctive style of farce - but enough of it flies to put it over and I had a fun time. (Thanks, David!)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Suddenly Last Summer

This isn't top-drawer Williams - it's a lurid melodrama that risks turning into howling camp at any moment - but in the right hands it has punch and it can be a fun vehicle for the right actors. These aren't the right hands, and most of these actors are playing it on tiptoes, like it's high drama. Blythe Danner is one of our best stage actresses, but she's all wrong for Mrs. Venable: she's busy mining the text to create a naturalistic portrait, when what we want to see is a crushing, larger-than-life manipulator. The role of Dr. Cukrowicz is usually a thankless one, but surely it can stand more personality than Gale Harold brings to it. The best thing about this production is Carla Gugino - not a surprise, as she was also the best thing about Michael Mayer's disastrous revival of After The Fall a couple of seasons back. She's radiant and exciting, able to be iron-willed and vulnerable at the same time, and she can put Williams' florid hothouse dialogue across without worshipping it.

Grey Gardens

The revised Broadway version has made some improvements on the off-Broadway show but the glaring problem has not been solved: the first act doesn't belong with the second. Although the supporting cast is engaging, and there's one lovely ballad ("Will You?"), the first act (which takes place when the Beales were vital and social) is inconsequential filler. It provides contrast to the second act, when the women are alarmingly enmeshed and dysfunctional, but it doesn't adequately illuminate the co-dependent dynamics that get them there. The reason to see the show is its second act, a musical theatre character study in which Christine Ebersole is giving one of those rare can't-miss performances: even if you haven't seen the Grey Gardens documentary and don't marvel at Ebersole's dead-on mimicry, you'll still be moved by her remarkable performance which has not a trace of condescension in it.
Note: At the show I saw, Dale Soules was on, convincingly, for Mary Louise Wilson.

Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris


After months of intense training by Patrick, King of the Brel addicts, I finally GOT what was so special about Jacques Brel.... Granted pre-show I had to medicate my ADD (jack daniels) but this second visit was nothing short of thrilling. On my first visit the playwright in me was put off by the lack of book, however, this time around I was much more aware of the fact that each musical number was its own complex character with its own complex story. Marshall and Cuccioli are in excellent shape- maybe even better than when I first saw them. Jayne Patterson is quite wonderful replacing Natasha Diaz and Constantine will be just great as soon as settles down and stops acting.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Monument

This grim and bracing two-hander, which has been given a spare, intense production by the Clockwork Theatre Company, is loaded with moral complexities: a soldier who raped and killed nearly two dozen women is "saved" from execution by a mysterious woman on the condition that he do whatever she says for the rest of his life. The playwright (Colleen Wagner) keeps upping the ante - as the unsentimental relationship between these two characters evolves, so do our perceptions of right and wrong - but the play's impact is weakened by a lack of nuance: its points are hit as if nails with a sledgehammer.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Macbeth: A Walking Shadow

Okay folks: if you miss this one, you're going to regret it. Doesn't matter if you like Shakespeare or not. Doesn't matter if you hate adaptations or not. This is a flawless production that presents Macbeth as a flashback for our haunted villain. Compressed into a narrow walkway between two separate audience rows, Andrew Frank's masterfully strong direction skips directly to all the key scenes, and smoothly blends from each to the next. The madness has never been so clear, and the ghosts have never been more direct, nor so intimate. This is the fall of a hero -- the essence of tragedy -- and Ato Essandoh is the perfect choice to play him here. I know, you just saw Macbeth in the Park -- me too. This one's better.

[Read on]

Meet Me In St. Louis

Irish Repertory

Though Meet Me In St Louis has Irish blood in it, I'm not sure if Irish Rep was the best place to stage it (for the sake of argument we'll factor out the notion that it should be staged at all). The central conflict (we're moving away from St. Louis!) doesn't even arrive until Act 2 which indicates that this is less a book musical and more of a Lawrence Welk style pageant. So it's all about the musical numbers and even though a lot of talented people tried their darndest, it's next to pointless trying to cram this enormous hunk of sugar onto a stage the size of a studio apartment. The cast was reduced to bare minimum and the dancing was reduced to marking in place. In its defense 24 hours later I am still humming "The Trolley Song" which I guess is what it's really all about. HGA!

Israel Horovitz's "New Shorts"

No, I'm not talking about summer pants, silly. I don't know if I'm the only one who's enamored of Israel Horovitz, but his unique blend of comedy and drama has captured me ever since our school canceled our production of Line during our final dress rehearsal. His new collection of nine plays is a varied work that goes from the fragmented, poetic scenes of "Inconsolable" (about a double suicide separated by generations) to the physical feat of "The Race Play" (a bit like 59E59's The Race). Horovitz directs with a deft hand -- his three plays are the strongest of the bunch -- and he's assisted by Michael LoPorto, who certainly knows how to block a scene. Lynn Cohen steals the show with her terrific portrayal of "Cat Lady" and "Beirut Rocks" is a nice look at the Palestinian side of things during the whole bombing of Lebanon. Horovitz knows how to write disaffection, and though he occasionally gets entangled in exposition, you'll have to forgive him for explaining a little.

[Read on]

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Producers

I think Tony Danza is a likeable celebrity: his endearingly boyish manner seems to say "aw shucks" and his unassuming smile says "gee, thanks for liking me." These qualities might have helped him as decent-hearted milquetoast Leo Bloom in The Producers, but instead he's playing wily and unscrupulous Max Bialystock: he's the wrong flavor of ham. Considering that he's miscast, he makes a valiant effort - no one is going to say he's walking through it, even though he talksings a fair amount of his numbers - but the result is that Roger Bart (as Leo) overpowers him handily. Although the show was in sturdy shape when I saw it last (about fifteen months ago, with John Treacy Egan and Hunter Foster in the leads) it now drags, largely because the central driving relationship between Max and Leo doesn't come off. The "Springtime For Hitler" number, however, remains immune and fool-proof.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Germans in Paris

Jonathan Leaf's play, The Germans in Paris, is the off-off-Broadway equivalent of Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia, and while it's far from matching the complexities of a nine-hour opus, there's something nice about a play in which Karl Marx, Heinrich Heine, and Richard Wagner speak so clearly. The issue I find with Leaf's play is that his characters don't seem to behave like their historical equivalents. I'm the last to say that history should stand in the way of a good story, but The Germans in Paris is done in by such bland, generic characters. Marx is a bundle of excitement without purpose and Wagner is played up as a bumblingly proud oaf. As for Heine, an honorable socialist who goes around cuckolding men, and the women who love him. The acting is great, and the language is clear, but why such important figures are relegated to such an inconsequential plot . . . it makes little sense to me.

[Read on]

Kiki And Herb: On Fire!

Joe's Pub

Kiki: "Last night here on this very stage Leslie Spritzer performed Patti Lupone's act from years and years ago and Ladies and Gentlemen I thought to myself before someone did that to us maybe we should do Kiki and Herb Does Kiki and Herb at El Flamingo.... the problem is l don't remember what we used to do."

The Rapture Project

A disappointment for what I was expecting, but you have to admire Great Small Works for their dedication to toy theater. Of the many strange things I hope to see in 2007, I doubt many will top the showdown of puppet Susan Sontag with puppet Lucifer, nor the starkly dramatic image of a security-clad puppet being carried across a black-and-white surrealistic sky by a nude cadre of elite puppeteers. I'm not sure how everything ties together, but I'm not entirely convinced that it has to: just accept the punk-rock Islamic fundamentalist merger as a theatrical convention and move straight on to their Armageddon-hastening puppet melee. Why not? You got something better to do?

[Read more]

The Country Wife

I live for moments of theater like this, where my ravenous scavenging of Off-Off culture turns up diamonds in the rough. Not only is Restoration comedy verbally demanding, but to do it right, you need high production values for the period costumes, and actors with a real understanding for physical comedy to make those fans snap with unspoken witticisms. This production of The Country Wife has it all, from the sexy corsets on the women to the frumpy lace robes on the men -- and a great sense of style, language, and grace to boot. This play isn't just fashionable, it's positively hot, and if I had only one thing to contribute to this blog instead of the 200 shows I plan to conquer, I'm glad this was it.

[Read on]

Sunday, January 07, 2007


This 1981 play, set in fictional Ballybeg as was Dancing at Lughnasa, is one of Brian Friel's best, but this static production (co-produced by the McCarter Theatre with the Manhattan Theatre Club) isn't nearly as dynamic as it needs to be to engage us emotionally. I left appreciating Friel's detailed, flavorful language (and responding to the message about the destructiveness of imperialism) more as a piece of literature than as a piece of stagework. It's early in previews; there is the distinct possibility that the ensemble will catch fire by the time the show opens, but at this point the production doesn't have a lot of heat.


MCC- Biltmore

This very smart play about a more relevant language eclipsing another was very smart. It didn't thrill me like Inishmore but then it didn't bore me like Shining City either. The best parts were when the translator was editing his own opinions in as he bounced back and forth between people of different languages. I'm pretty sure I liked it!


The Cell Theatre Company

Though well acted, this play about the 2003 NYC blackout seemed more like a work in progress. This was less of a play and more a procession of long-winded revealing philosophical monologues that no stranger would ever reveal to another. It was all so pontificatory. Is that a word? Most perplexing is the fact that even though this is a play about a citywide blackout, the scene where the lights come back on is strangely missing.

The Big Voice: God Or Merman

The Actor's Temple
If Hallmark Hall Of Fame needs a genteel, spic-and-span, non-confrontational story about those gays, they have one right here. This straightforward, simple (i.e. unimaginative) autobiographical musical narrates the stories of two gay men as they wrestle with their Christianity, come out, meet each other and fall in love. Granted, the predominantly older audience seemed to latch onto its polite sweetness much more than I did. I prefer my gay plays with a little more rage.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

This corporate-sponsored stage version of the Dr. Seuss classic is just over an hour long: it's Broadway's most expensive ticket per minute. En route to our seats to learn that the commercialism of Christmas is bad, I had to run a pricey gauntlet of souvenir-pushers from both sides. And yet, I can't say this Grinch picked my pocket: the production is fantastic, with some sensational special effects and flat-out wonderful costumes and sets that feel genuinely Seussian and stageworthy. I'll take the Grinch's sleigh ride and snowfall over the Chitty car or Mary's umbrella glide anyday! The biggest Christmas surprise is Patrick Paige's sardonic and hilarious performance as the Grinch: he hams it up spectacularly, growling at the tots in the first rows but always in the spirit of fun. When he fools little Cindy Lou Who and says "I'm Santy Claus, darling!", he does it as if he's Tallulah Bankhead - who could possibly resist that?

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Years Eve Afterparty Show

Joes Pub
With 2007 only an hour old I caught my first show of the year thereby giving me an early lead! This cavalcade of downtown performance artists, including staged readings, dances, the certifiably/thanfully insane Neal Medlyn yelling and tearing things up, and the amazing Bridget Everett wailing about her "can-hole" was an absolute blast! The odd-ball host, Dina Martina (pictured) was in rare form as she mangled the english language beyond repair. I cannot wait to see whatever New York productions she has planned this year. You can see a bit of her here. She really is out of control brilliant

The Rules of the Race

Courtesy of David...

1. Progress must be blogged. Slam, applaud, give away the ending, whatever, just blog it.

2. Though incidents like Streisand yelling "Shut the f*%k! up!" to a heckler are wildy theatrical, concerts do not count.*

3. It doesn't matter how many times you go to Mamma Mia!, you can only count a show once in a single year.

*Kritzer-ish and Wainwright-like recreations of concerts are excepted. Those count. (-Patrick)