Saturday, February 10, 2007

Howard Katz

Howard Katz isn't bad theater, but it's not worth seeing. Theatrical masturbation is an effortless craft: it takes nothing to take a shallow character and then punish him for it. The show is at least mercifully swift, although the scenes don't come at our "hero" nearly fast enough for his portrayer, Alfred Molina, to do much with them. Instead, he spends most of the play wading through recycled pity parties that were done better in other plays. The confrontation with the brother? The last-ditch gambling effort? The final telling-off of one's bosses? Where playwright Patrick Marber shines, however, and where Howard Katz redeems itself ever so slightly, is in the base humility it forces him to undergo. This is the same stuff Neil LaBute spouts once a year, although with LaBute, I at least feel that there's a certain level of honesty underneath it all. Here, I really just get the sense of a slick veneer that's been pushed as far as a good actor can, only to discover that's not far enough.

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