Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Fish in the Dark

Photo: Joan Marcus

Larry David may have left his hit play Fish in the Dark, but make no mistake: he's still up on that stage. And I'm not just referring to the fact that his replacement is his one-time television alter ego, Jason Alexander -- although that's certainly part of it. The role Alexander now inhabits -- Norman Drexel, a nebbishy, middle-aged Jewish man -- is little more than a David stand-in. But so is his wife, Brenda (the odd Glenne Headly) and his mother, Gloria (the always reliable Jayne Houdyshell). Norman's brother (Ben Shenkman, always a welcome presence) is supposed to be younger, richer, cooler -- nope. He's Larry David. Norman's maid, Fabiana (Rosie Perez, who barely acts), who harbors a secret you can smell a mile away: Larry. David. Even Norman's father, who speaks four lines before dying (a waste, since the fine Jerry Adler has the role), is Larry Fucking David.

But I guess that's what people paid upwards of $500 a pop for when the man himself was headlining. Full disclosure: I loathed Curb Your Enthusiam, David's screed of an HBO series that passed reprehensible behavior off as comedy for far too many years. And a lot of that "humor" inhabits this play, although I'd be lying if I said there weren't a few legitimate laughs. But the play itself is thinner than a dime, and the "twists" are about as expected as Kramer sliding uninvited through Jerry's apartment door.

I will say, though, that Alexander impressed me. A Tony winner for Jerome Robbins' Broadway, this replacement gig marks his first Broadway appearance in twenty-five years. (He's been active in West Coast theater, including several years as artistic director of the now-defunct Reprise series). Rarely have I seen an actor so confident in his ability to hold an audience in the palm of his hand. It's even more impressive considering that Norman is a pretty terrible role, written in such a way that a non-actor (which David firmly is) could succeed. I'm glad I saw him. He made me laugh. But if I'd paid more than rush prices, I would've felt somewhat cheated.

[$35 rush ticket, the most full-view box seat I've ever had]

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