The North Pool is certainly the most conventional piece to hit New York from imaginative playwright Rajiv Joseph. There are no philosophical tigers, no imaginary Holden Caulfield’s giving advice and no relationships built on mutual physical injuries. But the traditional two-hander is a neatly crafted, tense and juicy theatrical ride.
Set in 90 minutes of real time, the play takes place in 2007 (April 13th, to be exact), in the office of high school vice-principal, Dr. Danielson (Stephen Barker Turner). It’s the last few minutes before spring break begins but first the VP needs to meet with 18-year-old Syrian transfer student Khadim Asmaan (Babak Tafti) over what seems to be a trivial offense. Danielson asks a lot of questions he already knows the answer to and when Asmaan is caught lying he’s assigned to serve detention.
The student accepts the administrator’s offer to make it a quick detention right then and there, most likely making them the only two people left in the building. But while Asmaan would rather serve his time quietly, Danielson has more questions for him regarding his family, his participation in school activities and items found in his locker which may or may not be related to threats made against the school.
The anxious student counters by bringing up some well-known rumors about the vice-principal. To go further would reveal too much but it all leads up to each one’s relationship with another student.
The upper hand keeps bouncing back and forth and under director Giovanna Sardelli neither character can claim the audience’s sympathy for very long. Turner’s Danielson is a pompous authority figure grounded in traditional (white) American values, unconvincingly trying to let the teenager know that he’s his friend. Tafti’s Asmaan first appears as a polite and timid fish out of water until his arrogance and ruthlessness surface.
There are a couple of points that defy logic a bit, and a slight hint of a sadistic act involving the title location that never develops, but despite those stumbles, The North Pool proves a well-acted and entertaining cat and mouse game.
Photo of Stephen Barker Turner and Babak Tafti by Carol Rosegg.
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Posted on: Friday, March 08, 2013 @ 05:27 PM Posted by: Michael Dale
Candy Tastes Nice
The woman who went by the pseudonym Natalie Dylan, a self-described feminist with a B.A. in women’s studies, hasn’t been the only one to attempt to put her virginity up for auction, but being attractive, American and willing to appear on national television to explain how she wished to use the money to pay for her further education most likely helped her become the best-known in this country.
In these days where government legislation of morality and a woman’s right to control her own body stirs up controversy, Dylan’s story is still extraordinarily relevant. Playwright/performer Miranda Huba took from it her inspiration to create Candy Tastes Nice, a fictional solo piece about a woman wishing to pay off her student loans by holding such an auction.
Directed by Shannon Sindelar, the play was previously performed in New York in a traditional theatre setting, but this new production is placed in the upstairs lounge of the bordello-themed bar, Madame X, with customers welcome to bring their drinks into the playing space (no minimum) where they sit on cozy couches and can sample from small bowls full of sugary treats. There are elevated areas on both ends of the room but for the most part Huba struts across the floor up close to her listeners as she tells her tale, which turns out to be an awkward mix of sexual politics overwhelmed by outlandish fantasy.
Huba’s writing style frequently echoes the crass titillation of a letter to Penthouse (“The series of boyfriends that I had selfishly blue balled had never done anything other than some heavy petting.”) performed with an off-putting sense of arrogance. The play works best when she’s seriously critical of the media’s insistence of shaping her story to suit its needs, regardless of the truth, such as in a scene inspired by Dylan’s appearance on the Tyra Banks show. Huba has her unnamed narrator repeatedly asked by a model/talk show host why she’s doing it and she repeatedly answers that she wants to pay off her student loans. It isn’t until she changes her answer to express a yearning for celebrity love and attention that the model/host is satisfied that she’s come to the heart of the matter.
Huba does touch on significant topics such as the theory that women have been auctioning off their virginity to the highest bidder since the beginning of time and the moral culture that automatically sees prostitutes as a victims (She doesn’t go into the high cost of education, though.) but only lightly. Instead of exploring issues thoroughly, she ventures off into fuzzy symbolism with a scene involving a young boy and her internal organs and cartoonish satire which has world leaders bidding on her as part of complicated deals involving oil, hostages and nuclear weapons. Despite her effort to make a statement, the subject of auctioning off one's virginity and the issues surrounding it are so unusual that what comes out of the playwright’s inventiveness never seems like it would be as interesting as a realistic approach.
Also, the title is confusing. There’s a character in the narrative named Candy, which can lead one to wrongly believe the title might be referring to her. And frankly, the words Candy Tastes Nice suggests a sex act that has nothing to do with the play.
Photo of Miranda Huba by Michael Weintrob.
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Posted on: Thursday, March 07, 2013 @ 06:01 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Belleville & The Revisionist
As a public service for playgoers who do not understand French, nothing of any importance takes place in the final scene of Amy Herzog’s Belleville.
Don’t worry, it’s not a spoiler to say that the actions that end the next to last scene pretty much complete the play and that the final pages, spoken entirely in French, do nothing but leave those of us who only know English wondering what the hell they missed. (For the record, I cut and pasted the scene from my press script onto one of those web sites that performs translations.)
Perhaps I’ll never be satisfied with the way Ms. Herzog chooses to end her plays, but like her After The Revolution and The Great God Pan, she has a terrific way with dialogue that both entertains and stings and characters and situations that are at least initially grabbing. Director Anne Kauffman and an excellent cast greatly contribute to keeping attentions fixed, despite a couple of lapses in believability and a dearth of content to sufficiently fill the play’s 95 minutes.
The Belleville section of Paris fills in for Park Slope, Brooklyn (The Seine, the Gowanus… What’s the dif?) as represented by the attic apartment (fine work by Julia C. Lee) rented by twentysomething American couple, Zack and Abby (Greg Keller and Maria Dizzia). The first thing we learn about their marriage is that Abby has been holding back any physical intimacy since going off her anti-depressants. It goes downhill from there.
After drawing the audience in with some amusing observations about the irony of an Eiffel Tower onesie and Abby’s failure at her chosen career (“To be an actress you have to love to suffer and I only like to suffer.”) the playwright spends the rest of the evening hinting at, and eventually revealing in tiny morsels, the many issues involving these two arrested adolescents, including addiction, deception, finances and commitment. Eventually, things start getting seriously dangerous. Keller and Dizzia do a great job of initially coming off as a cute, if somewhat quirky, couple and slowly blending into the transitions that reveal the darker sides of their marriage.
Serving as a representation of maturity is Phillip James Brannon as their landlord, Alioune, who Abby is shocked to discover – since he’s happily married with two children and a successful business – is only 25. In the relatively small role of his wife, Amina, Pascale Armand has little more to do than to appear pissed off, which she does nicely.
Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Maria Dizzia and Greg Keller; Bottom: Pascale Armand and Phillip James Brannon.
If actor/playwright Jesse Eisenberg isn’t going to bother much with projecting his lines loud enough to reach row M of the cozy and acoustically fine Cherry Lane Theatre, then I’m not going to bother much with reviewing them.
To be fair, I checked with others and the hearing problem wasn’t just mine, and to be doubly fair – since his voice projection skills have nothing to do with his playwriting – I did review a copy of the script before concluding that The Revisionist, though given a fine production by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and director Kip Fagan, is far too familiar and unpolished to engage, though the presence of Vanessa Redgrave will undoubtedly fill the 179-seat playhouse.
Eisenberg plays rude, obnoxious bad-boy writer David suffering a block while trying to revise his sophomore effort. He decides to get some undistracted work time by traveling to Poland to stay with his second cousin, Maria (Redgrave), whom he’s never met. Why Poland? Why Maria? Why do they bond over a vodka-soused recitation of “Who’s On First?” I don’t know.
The overly patient and generous Maria puts up with David’s spoiled nonsense because she is longing to release to some relation a family secret from her childhood during the German occupation. (Who’s the revisionist now?) Providing breaks from their implausible scenes are nice moments between Maria and a gregarious cab driver pal, played by Daniel Oreskes.
Photo of Vanessa Redgrave and Jesse Eisenberg by Sandra Coudert.
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Posted on: Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 05:17 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 3/3/13 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"Art is science made clear."
-- Wilson Mizner
The grosses are out for the week ending 3/3/2013 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: MANILOW ON BROADWAY (12.3%), WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (7.6%), ANNIE (5.9%), THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (5.0%), WICKED (4.1%), MARY POPPINS (3.8%), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1.8%), ANN (1.4%), ROCK OF AGES (0.6%), MAMMA MIA!(0.3%),
Down for the week was: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-12.1%), CHICAGO (-7.9%), NEWSIES (-7.6%), JERSEY BOYS (-7.0%), ONCE (-6.9%), HANDS ON A HARDBODY (-5.5%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-4.9%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-2.2%), THE LION KING (-2.1%), CINDERELLA (-1.9%), THE OTHER PLACE (-0.5%),
Posted on: Monday, March 04, 2013 @ 09:17 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Out of necessity, people tend to fall in love rather quickly in musical theatre. Trying to jam a relationship into a two and a half hour entertainment often means a good thirty-two bars of lush music and romantic lyrics is all it takes to establish a lasting emotional bond.
People toss around the word “love” quite a bit in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s chamber musical, Passion, based on Ettore Scola's film Passione d'Amore, but the more prominent emotions displayed by the piece’s main trio – at least on the outset – are lust, obsession and perhaps more than a bit of self-centeredness. (Pity the press agent assigned to promote a show titled Self-Centeredness.)
Take the musical’s opening duet, a post-coital reflection on individual happiness set to a melody that seems to echo the couple’s exhausted afterglow. The authors tell us precious little about the relationship between the 19th Century Italian bedmates Georgio, a military man, and his lover Clara except that they met at one time or another after a glance in the park when each was taken with the other’s look of sadness. “How quickly pity leads to love,” they sing, somewhat prophetically.
Georgio sings of Clara’s captivating qualities, all of which are part of her physical beauty, and since in director John Doyle’s moody and equally captivating mounting for the Classic Stage Company the role is played by Melissa Errico, his enchantment at her physical charms is certainly believable. (Errico also brings her gorgeously light soprano and subtle acting skills to the role, but Georgio is probably less concerned with such matters.)
Ryan Silverman, who expected to be starring on Broadway in Rebecca around this time, is certainly a looker himself, and it’s quite possible that Clara’s love for Georgio is no more than a surface appreciation. The plot is set in motion when the handsome officer is transferred out of town, leaving the couple only able to communicate through letters. His new commander (the fine Stephen Bogardus in a largely functional role) has a reclusive, terminally ill cousin named Fosca, who is considered hideously ugly by the other soldiers. As played by Judy Kuhn, she looks more like an attractive woman who doesn’t wear makeup. A simple act of kindness on Georgio’s part leads to Fosca’s obsessive desire to win his love, through pity, her wits, or whatever means she can muster.
Is it Georgio that Fosca wants, or just someone who will treat her passionately in the short amount of time she has left? Kuhn’s marvelously low-key performance makes Fosca less of a tragic figure and more of a clever woman willing to play a tragic role to secure her needs. And as the one-act musical proceeds, we learn more about Georgio’s complicated relationship with Clara.
Passion contains the most plainspoken of Sondheim’s lyrics and music that supports the conversational tone of the text. There’s a seamless blend in and out of the sung and spoken words and no breaks for applause.
The minimalist setting was designed by Doyle – an elevated black marble floor – with Jane Cox’s delicate lighting effectively embracing the drama’s somber moods.
Despite winning the 1994 Tony Award for Best Musical, the original Broadway production of Passion only lasted a disappointing eight months. This first major New York revival may prove the piece worthier of a more cerebral Off-Broadway audience.
Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Ryan Silverman, Melissa Errico and Judy Kuhn; Bottom: Judy Kuhn and Ryan Silverman.
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Posted on: Saturday, March 02, 2013 @ 11:33 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
While several of New York’s non-profit theatre companies have been pursuing the noble cause of creating more exposure for contemporary women playwrights, the Mint Theatre Company has been cornering the market on the dead ones. Fourteen of the company’s forty productions were scripted by women, a statistic that gains stature when you consider that they’re reviving from a pool of material with a percentage of work by women far below that rate. A prime case in point is the nearly forgotten Irish playwright Theresa Deevy, arguably the most famous female playwright of the first half of the 20th Century.
After mounting terrific productions of her Temporal Powers and Wife to James Whelan, Producing Artistic Director Jonathan Bank now stages what was considered her most popular work, Katie Roche; the only Deevy play to ever find its way to Broadway, playing a handful of performances in 1937 when the Abbey Theatre Company crossed the Atlantic with a repertory of productions.
As with many of Deevy’s works, the central character is a woman trying to maneuver her way out of her low station using the limited options available. Played with naïve feistiness by Wrenn Schmidt, Katie is a servant in a lovely country cottage (beautifully rendered by Vicki R. Davis), tending to the needs of unmarried, middle-aged Amelia Gregg (delightfully sweet and timid Margaret Daly) and her frequently out-of-town businessman brother, Stanislaus (Patrick Fitzgerald).
Though she is fond of the charming local lad, Michael Maguire (Jon Fletcher), when Katie learns the truth about her parentage, she decides she’s had enough of the humble life (“I was meant to be proud.”) and accepts Stanislaus’ marriage proposal, though he is much older and, as played by Fitzgerald, stiff, outwardly unemotional and seriously lacking in personality.
The play’s three acts depict the changes in Katie as she exercises her new authority as lady of the house (such as her choice to cover the walls with religious paintings) while remaining obedient to her overbearing husband during his limited time back home. It’s clear that Katie is attracted to the life Stanislaus can provide for her, not for the man himself, but she does little about it as the evening progresses. The play also makes some oddly sharp turns from naturalistic drama to almost farce; in one scene Katie is violently struck by an authoritative male, in another she’s hiding a suitor from her husband by having him stand behind the window curtains.
Still, the very fine production makes its way through the rough spots. There’s a very sweetly played, hesitantly romantic scene between Daly’s Amelia and John O’Creagh as a nervous, marriage-minded friend and Fiana Toibin makes a strong impression as Amelia and Stanislaus’ judgmental sister.
Photos by Richard Termine: Top: Patrick Fitzgerald and Wrenn Schmidt; Bottom: Margaret Daly and John O'Creagh
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Posted on: Friday, March 01, 2013 @ 06:02 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 2/24/13 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"The freedom of any society varies proportionately with the volume of its laughter."
-- Zero Mostel
The grosses are out for the week ending 2/24/2013 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: MARY POPPINS (8.7%), NEWSIES (8.7%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (8.0%), JERSEY BOYS (6.6%), PICNIC (5.7%), MANILOW ON BROADWAY (5.6%), ANNIE (4.3%), ONCE(2.5%),
Down for the week was: MAMMA MIA! (-16.4%), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (-14.6%), THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (-9.3%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-4.8%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-3.8%), THE LION KING (-3.6%), ROCK OF AGES (-3.3%), CHICAGO (-2.6%), WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (-2.6%), THE OTHER PLACE (-2.3%), WICKED (-1.6%), CINDERELLA (-0.3%),
Posted on: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 @ 10:42 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Lend Me A Tenor & The Broadway Musicals of 1937
If the Broadway revival of a few years back demonstrated the deadly results that can occur when overthinking and underplaying a quality farce, the new Paper Mill mounting is a fast a furious example of Ken Ludwig’s madcap Lend Me A Tenor done right. Director Don Stephenson doesn’t throw any fancy curveballs with the material, but he and his perfectly cast company of Broadway vets nail every door slam and verbal ping-pong volley with hilarious aplomb.
Set in the fanciest hotel suite 1930s Cleveland can provide (a nifty rendering by John Lee Beatty) Ludwig’s antics revolve around a world famous Italian opera star (John Treacy Egan, terrifically spoofing Euro-hamminess), hurried into town without rehearsal, to make his American debut in the title role of a one-night gala performance of Otello, only to have him knocked out by an unintentional overload of sedatives and alcohol shortly before curtain.
The panic-stricken producer (Michael Kostroff, channeling bombastically bellowing straight men like Gale Gordon) assigns Max, his aspiring opera star assistant (a nimble David Josefsberg) the task of disguising himself in the identity-concealing Otello garb and passing himself off as the great tenor; a desperate attempt to escape financial disaster.
Since there must be sex involved in these matters, Max is sweet on the boss’s daughter (Jill Paice), who is longing for a fling or two before settling down, preferable with someone like a famous opera star. A fame-hungry soprano (Donna English) and a publicity-hungry arts patron (Nancy Johnston) also have their eyes on the singer they call Il Stupendo. Conveniently, his tempestuously-tempered wife (ferociously funny Judith Blazer) has just walked out on him, but you know she’ll be back at the worst possible moment. Rounding out the company is Mark Price as the ambitious and nosey bellhop.
It’s probably no coincidence that director Stephenson and most of his ensemble are best known for their work in musical theatre. Not only are Egan and Josefsberg required to be believably operatic in a scene where Il Stupendo gives Max an impromptu voice lesson, but the play's execution depends greatly on playing out rhythms, tones and choreographed chaos. The company makes sweet music out of this one, from the opening chords right through to the special built-in encore.
Photos by Jerry Dalia: Top: Nancy Johnston, Mark Price, Michael Kostroff and Jill Paice; Bottom: David Josefsberg and John Treacy Egan.
Despite its subplots involving socialism and racial segregation, Rodgers and Hart’s Babes In Arms was the least political of the hit musicals that charged onto Broadway stages in that hectic year of 1937. Unlike today, where shows are usually tested through years of readings, workshops and regional productions before coming anywhere near Times Square, in the 1930s a musical could go from initial idea to opening night in a matter of months and the most popular Broadway musicals frequently offered the kind of contemporary satire modern audiences usually get from late night television.
So even though the Babes In Arms score boasted five songs that are undoubtedly considered American Songbook classics (“My Funny Valentine,” “Where Or When,” “The Lady Is A Tramp,” “Johnny One Note” and “I Wish I Were In Love Again”) it was Harold Rome’s frequently updated topical revue Pins and Needles that became the first Broadway musical to surpass 1,000 performances, though its songs are rarely heard today because they’re mostly about bread lines, the rise of Fascism and labor hostilities.
The biggest musical comedy star to grace the stage that year was George M. Cohan, buck and winging across the stage as the country’s then-current president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt in another Rodgers and Hart show, I’d Rather Be Right. But his topical numbers, particularly the show-stopping “Off The Record,” are only known by connoisseurs today while the ballad sung by the show’s supporting lovers, “Have You Met Miss Jones,” emerged as a jazz standard. Likewise Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s satirical numbers in Hooray For What?, an Ed Wynn vehicle spoofing war profiteering and blind patriotism, were overshadowed by the score’s hit, “Down With Love.”
This mix of satirical obscurities and popular standards was most apparent in the 1937 edition of Town Hall’s Broadway By The Year series, now entering its 13th season. Creator/writer/host Scott Siegel took his usual place behind a side podium, setting all the selections in their historical and cultural contexts, and, as always, music director Ross Patterson was at piano leading his Little Big Band in arrangements that replicated the many styles of the year. Director Mindy Cooper provided some frequently charming staging.
Perhaps the best example of the contrasting moods of the year’s musicals was seen in two knock-out tap numbers performed and choreographed by Danny Gardner. From the short-lived Sea Legs, Gardner wowed the crowd by tap dancing in a straight jacket to the wacky love song “Touched In The Head.” Later on, he was joined by Brent McBeth and Derek Roland for “Doing The Reactionary,” a Pins and Needles tune about the new “dance craze” that reflected the war rumblings in late ‘30s Europe. (“It’s darker than the dark bottom, it rumbles more than the rumba. / If you think that the goose step’s got ‘em, just take a look at this numba.”)
Another Pins and Needles selection, usually performed as a solo, had Carole J. Bufford, Tonya Pinkins and Elizabeth Stanley lamenting, “Nobody Makes A Pass At Me,” with a clever lyric that spoofs Madison Avenue’s power over female consumers. Stephen DeRosa led the company in Rome’s extremely catchy and quirky “Sing Me A Song With Social Significance.”
DeRosa’s snappy showmanship was also put to good use in “Way Out West (On West End Avenue),” another popular Babes In Arms tune. He got to show a more somber side with the dramatic ballad “I See Your Face Before Me,” from the three month runner, Between The Devil. That show’s Dietz and Schwartz score also provided dramatic highlights for Bufford (a rich interpretation of “Why Did You Do It?”) and Brian d’Arcy James (“By Myself”).
The aforementioned “Miss Jones” couldn’t have asked for a finer escort than Mr. d’Arcy James, who also dueted a romantic “Where Or When” with Stanley and cavorted with Pinkins for “I Wish I Were In Love Again.” Proving that even the most seasoned pros can have their lapses, d’Arcy James and Pinkins both blanked out a bit on Hart’s lyric, but charmingly surged ahead, winning over the audience with ad-libbed lines about their memory losses that fit into the Rodgers melody.
Earlier on, Pinkins smoldered with “Moanin’ In The Mornin’,” delighted with “My Funny Valentine” and jazzed up the joint with “The Lady Is A Tramp.”
Kevin Earley handled the operetta moments with his commanding baritone, eschewing amplification for “Why Did You Kiss My Heart Awake?” from Franz Lehár and Edward Eliscu’s Frederika and for his campily-played duet with Stanley, “To Live Is To Love” from Three Waltzes; a show with a score adapted from music by Johann Strauss, Sr., Johann Strauss, Jr. and the unrelated Oscar Straus. Stanley ended the concert belting out “Johnny One-Note.”
Photos by Stephen Sorokoff: Top: Danny Gardner; Bottom: Tonya Pinkins.
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Posted on: Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 03:25 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 2/17/13 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"Legends are all to do with the past and nothing to do with the present."
-- Lauren Bacall
The grosses are out for the week ending 2/17/2013 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: MAMMA MIA! (32.3%), CHICAGO (31.0%), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (22.8%), MARY POPPINS (18.2%), WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (18.0%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (17.5%), PICNIC (14.6%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (14.0%), ANNIE (13.8%), THE OTHER PLACE (13.5%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (11.6%), CINDERELLA (10.8%), NEWSIES (10.2%), THE LION KING (10.1%), ROCK OF AGES (8.9%), WICKED (7.2%), MANILOW ON BROADWAY (5.3%), THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (5.0%), ONCE (3.3%), JERSEY BOYS(1.5%),
Down for the week was:
Posted on: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 @ 03:53 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
All In The Timing
Near the end of “Sure Thing,” one of the sextet of David Ives one-act comedies that make up All In The Timing, a pair of strangers meeting in a café bond over their mutual love for the early films of Woody Allen. Perhaps the current offering from Primary Stages will inspire couples to meet at the 59E59 Theaters’ bar and bond over the early works of Mr. Ives, before he became known for less-quirky full-length plays and concert adaptations of old musicals.
“Sure Thing” is perhaps the best known of these hip, off-beat quickies that premiered back in the late 80s and early 90s as part of Manhattan Punch Line’s Annual One-Act Festival before being packaged together for a hit Off-Broadway run in ’93. The high-concept comedy simply covers a short conversation between a man and a woman on a Friday night from the time he asks if the seat next to her is taken to the moment they decide to spend the rest of the evening together. The running gag is that a bell rings every time one of them says something that could end the conversation right there and their words are quickly replaced with something more desirable. (When the woman asks if he’s of any “weird political affiliation,” the man responds “Nope. Straight-down-the-ticket Republican. (Bell) Straight-down-the-ticket Democrat. (Bell) Can I tell you something about politics? (Bell) I like to think of myself as a citizen of the universe. (Bell) I'm unaffiliated.”)
While you may want to discuss how the playlet is about human communication or the fragility of blossoming relationships, the payoff is really – yes – all in the timing. It’s the rhythms and pacing and word sounds that tickle the ear; perfect material for the off-kilter creativity of director John Rando, performed with New York over-analytical zest by Carson Elrod’s and Liv Rooth.
The rest of the evening riffs on even more antic notions. “Words, Words, Words” has Elrod and Rooth joined by Matthew Saldivar as three chimps randomly banging at typewriters at desks labeled “Milton,” “Swift” and “Kafka,” knowing they’re expected to eventually come up with Hamlet, while not knowing exactly what Hamlet is.
Jenn Harris, who is funny enough with bland material, gets to sink her talented teeth into some really meaty comedy; first as a shy woman with a speech impediment in “The Universal Language” who grows more confident as con man Elrod teaches her a made-up tongue she can speak clearly (The humor comes from the audience’s ability to understand what they’re saying through malaprops and nonsense syllables.) and then as a surly, sexy waitress in “The Philadelphia,” a sketch where people are afflicted with conditions that have them taking on the clichéd qualities of major American cities.
“Philip Glass Buys A Loaf Of Bread” begins with the simple action described in the title and repetitively builds it into a verbal and physical opus. “Variations On The Death Of Trotsky” begins with an absurd site gag but, with Saldivar’s wistful performance, turns into a rather sweet rumination on mortality.
Smart and witty throughout, this top-notch revival provides a brisk night of civilized laughs.
Photos by James Leynse: Top: Liv Rooth and Carson Elrod; Bottom: Jenn Harris and Carson Elrod.
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Posted on: Sunday, February 17, 2013 @ 01:56 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
What next? Glass Birkenstocks?
All these interesting rumors going around about how the new Broadway production of Cinderella is trying to make the title character more of a role model for young girls. I hear today they're changing the lyric of the big ballad to "Do I Love You Because You're Feminist?"
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Posted on: Saturday, February 16, 2013 @ 01:18 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
About Michael: After 20-odd years singing, dancing and acting in
dinner theatres, summer stocks and the ever-popular
audience participation murder mysteries (try
improvising with audiences after they?ve had two hours
of open bar), Michael Dale segued his theatrical
ambitions into playwriting. The buildings which once
housed the 5 Off-Off Broadway plays he penned have all
been destroyed or turned into a Starbucks, but his
name remains the answer to the trivia question, "Who
wrote the official play of Babe Ruth's 100th
Birthday?" He served as Artistic Director for The
Play's The Thing Theatre Company, helping to bring
free live theatre to underserved communities, and
dabbled a bit in stage managing and in directing
cabaret shows before answering the call (it was an
email, actually) to become BroadwayWorld.com's first
Chief Theatre Critic. While not attending shows
Michael can be seen at Shea Stadium pleading for the
Mets to stop imploding. Likes: Strong book musicals
and ambitious new works. Dislikes: Unprepared
celebrities making their stage acting debuts by
starring on Broadway and weak bullpens.