Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

A dazzling, innovate, and entirely engrossing production by Simon Stephens is making a splash on Broadway this fall while still running their award-winning production in London's West End.  It's that good.  It couldn't wait.

Alex Sharp (Christopher Boone), a 2014 graduate of Julliard, (that's about as fresh-meat as you can get!) helms the production with pure genius and what appeared to me to be a virtually flawless and powerful performance. That's quite an achievement given he's playing a 15 year old boy with the challenge of Asperger's Syndrome on the journey well beyond his wildest dreams.  In the approximate 2h:30m production he is never off the stage - holding court on his journey just about the entire time.  His way.

What's on stage, you ask?  Well, it's empty, black, and filled with all sorts of lighting and small props that get pulled out of tiny hidden compartments all over the floor and the walls.  The walls are mostly covered with a grid-like design of lights, providing what I thought was a map - like the fabric of Christopher's brain and his thought process.  Plenty of projections augmented an already complicated design and with a few moving parts, a few mind-blowing effects such as a full-stage sized escalator leaped to life. There was perhaps more choreography than in some musicals.  Ne'er a song was uttered in this fast-paced drama, however.   Lighter moments of comedy - plenty, but the focus was firmly on Christopher's journey, the inner voice in his head, his play (which is what he wrote and what we are hearing), and that of his family.  Pure Genius.

The multitude of other characters were played with equal aplomb by Francesca Fardany, Ian Barford, Enid Graham, Helen Carey, Mercedes Herredo, Richard Hollis, Ben Horner, Jocelyn Bioh, and David Manis.  

I was clearly not only the only one impressed. The true New York audience (it was only the second preview and that's when we go to catch the good ones early) leaped to their feet in unison before the cast even stepped out for their bows.  It was that good. I was that impressed.  Really impressed.  Dare I say at this early juncture, I'd gamble that Mr. Sharp will be a shoe-in for Tony nominee at his tender age.  It really was that good.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Country House

A new play just arrived on Broadway courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club and award winning playwright Donald Margulies. It's a dash of classic play, a dash of naughty, and a dash of funny.  Add it all up and you have a fairly solid run at a family drama.

It didn't bowl me over.  Those dashes I mentioned, well, a few could have been tablespoons or half-cups.  It wasn't bad, it just wasn't compelling.   Perhaps it will grow tighter with time as I saw an early preview, but my gut tells me there just isn't enough to draw the audience much past the front door of the fantastic country house (Sets: John Lee Beatty) we see on stage.

Blythe Danner (Anna Patterson) is the matriarch of the family in question here.  The family is mostly actors.  Her daughter is dead and it's a year afterward and she's getting the clan together at the country house in Williamstown (they are actors, remember) for the the anniversary of her death including her son (Elliott Cooper) Eric Lange, her son-in-law (Walter Keegan) David Rasche and his new girlfriend (Neil McNally) Kate Jennings Grant, her granddaughter (Suzie Keegan) Sarah Steele, a hunky young Hollywood actor (Michael Astor) Daniel Sunjata.

There are a few twists and turns in the plot, an inside running joke about the theatre and actors, and of course a little naughty intrigue all surrounding that gorgeous and successful Hollywood actor.  Well cast, but it was a studio sized result when I was expecting a classic 6 or more given the level of talent on the stage.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

This Is Our Youth

I get it.  Cutting-edge theatre, young hot actors, minor (or not-so-minor) indiscretions, drugs and, of course, sex.  What more could you ask for in a smart-off Broadway production in a dumpy (read avant-garde) theater?  Not much I suppose.  But the problem here is that it's not off-Broadway (although the Cort Theater is a dump).

What we have here is Broadway prices to see some young hot actors tell a rather pedestrian story in 2 ½ hours in what could possible have been a 65 minute no-intermission short-play with a lot more impact.  More impact, that is, except in the producers' pocketbooks.  Who would pay $100+ a seat for that?  Nobody is my guess.  So it has to run on Broadway and the requisite unearned hype is made and we all buy tickets.

Don't get me wrong, the un-mic'd actors on the not-as-messy-as-it-should-have-been set are basically yelling at each other most of the play about their youthful irresponsibilitys, messed up lives, and those of their friends.  Kenneth Lonergan wrote this play in the '90's and it has had a few off-Broadway and regional runs with marginal success prior to this. In this incarnation, Michael Cera (Warren Straub), Kieren Culkin (Dennis Ziegler), and newcomer Tavi Gevinson (Jessica Goldman) grace the stage.

The problem wasn't the acting.  That was solid.  No complaints.  The story, on the other hand, was way too long, too repetitive, and contained a message in the last 5 minutes of the 2 ½ hours that could have been arrived at minute 55 of 65 without an intermission.  This material is perfectly suited to a short-play.  I'm not complaining about the material - drugs, sex, messed-up kids with first-world-problems.   I just wish the writing was more focused, brief, more impactful, and went somewhere.  Anywhere.  Mr. Lonegran's expansion of this material into a full-fledged 2-act stage play is a mistake.

For this we pay $100 and get very little in return from the fine performances on the stage.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It's Only a Play

In full disclosure, I'm looking to recover my investment in this play.  I don't see why I can't sing the praises of this double-over-with-laughter, pee-in-my-pants production at the same time!

The best comedic actors around grace the stage in Terrance McNally's two-act romp over at the Schoenfeld Theater on West 45th.  Nathan Lane (James Wicker), Matthew Broderick (Peter Austin), Megan Mullally (Julia Budder), Stockard Channing (Virginia Noyes), F. Murray Abraham (Ira Drew), Rupert Grint (Frank Finger), and adorable and very lucky newcomer, Micah Stock (Gus P. Head), all grace the stage and hold court with uproarious results.

In my opinion this is a very strong argument for a Tony category for Best Ensemble Cast.  Hands down, they complement each other and each fuels the others in pursuit of the punchline.  That said, Mr. Lane is clearly the leader of the pack with his hysterical mugs, unexpected outbursts, one-liners, and generally effervescent stage presence.

Mr. McNally wrote this play in the late 70's and revised it in the 80's and has again undertaken a massive update to make the show culturally relevant to an audience today.  As it is opening night of a Broadway play (the play within the play), there are quite a few pop-culture entertainment oriented references (and jokes) to be had.

This is a limited engagement and I encourage you to RUN to the box office and get your tickets today. Despite the outcome of the reviews of the play-within-the play, you won't be disappointed in the least and may end up with a pain in your side --- from all the laughter.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Booty Candy

Fresh, provocative new American theater relevant to to the fabric of our society.  That's just what you'll get with Robert O'Hara's new work on the Main Stage at Playwrights Horizons.

Booty Candy is really a series of skits interwoven into a single production.   In what might be a departure from the norm, the playwright quite literally forces the audience to examine their views of the play about mid-way - - overtly asking the questions about what it means and where it's going.  One guest on stage during this "Conference" scene suggests, as the audience likely already feels, that we should "choke" on the material.  What he means is that it is should be uncomfortable, unrepentant, and provocative.  I think it's fairly true.

I have mixed feelings leaving the play.  It did make me think, it entertained, and I did "choke" on the material at times.  However, at the same time, it felt somewhat disjointed, unusually instructive, purposefully "in-your-face",  and perhaps overly gratuitous at times.

Featuring Phillip James Brannon, Jessica Frances Dukes, Jesse Pennington, Benja Kay Thomas, and Lance Coadie Williams - all playing multiple characters except for Mr. Brannon who played the single unifying character of Sutter.  He's the one growing up black and gay and surrounded directly or indirectly by all these other characters in all 10 or so scenes.

It's fair to say the scenes had a common theme but ran the gamut from an un-wedding ceremony on a beach to a family around a black family's dinner table, to a phone conversation between four characters, cleverly staged and costumed by two actors.

Check it out for yourself.  Most plays at Playwrights Horizons are worth the off-Broadway ticket price and this first play of their 2014-2015 season is no exception.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Music Man - In Concert

A benefit concert for Transport Group, The Music Man in Concert brought together some of the biggest and brightest stars on Broadway today at the Signature Theater.

Conceived and directed by Jack Cummings III and brilliantly narrated by Joe Iconis, the evening was filled with artistic back-stories, laughs, song, smiles and pure joy.  Over 80 performers and musicians generously donated all of their time and talents to the evening's performance.

Each taking a turn at Harold Hill, Santino Fontana, John Ellison Conlee, Andrew Samonsky, and Jeffry Denman each stole the show - one after the other.

As Marian, Alexander Silber, Lauren Osnes, and Betsy Wolfe, and Jessica Hershberg were all absolutely divine.

The Barbershop Quartet was delicious and sublime - Stanley Bahorek, Bob Stillman, Robert Lenzi, Richard Costa.

The Traveling Salesmen - Jonathan Hammond, Jason SweetTooth Williams, Robert Dusold, James Hindman, Jim Fyfe, Bob Walton, Michael De Liberto were perfectly syncopated.

The Pick-a-Little ladies were priceless - Susan Blair Ross, Heather Mac Rae, Tina Johnson, Danette Holden, Diane Findlay.

Andrew Keenan-Bolger was 100% adorable and pure delight as Marcellus Washburn - lisp and all.  And last but not least, the whole ensemble and the wonderful orchestra was pitch perfect and dashingly dressed!

An enjoyable and unexpectedly educational evening all around.  Joe Iconis' suit certainly took the top prize and the tales he wove made you long for a big silly musical about Iowa on Broadway - once again!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mr. Confidential

With music and lyrics by Samuel Bernstein, this fantastic entrant into the New York Musical Theater Festival (NTMF) seems to be seriously rallying for a future off-Broadway run.  I am in awe of the creatives and casts who literally throw these shows together in a remarkably short period of time.  Simply amazing.  So when you get to see a show that delights and entertains in a cogent and cohesive manner, its all the better.

Mr. Confidential is the story of a family magazine publisher who turns to the gossip rag trade (inventing or perfecting it?).  He runs scathing stories, slides right down the line of truth and honesty and quite literally captures the American public at a time they had nothing similar.

Kevin Spirtas is perhaps a bit lackluster yet still entertaining in his performance as Bob Harrison.  Erin Leigh Peck is possibly the show-stealing character as Marjorie with her powerful voice and tough acting chops!  Amy Bodnar is divine as the ditsy and lovable Jeannie.  Michael Marotta aptly portrays the journalist Walter Winchell with his deep and rich radio voice.

With an ensemble that includes James La Rosa, Willie Falk, Alina Watters, and Joshua Dixon, this show is poised for a next step toward a commercial run.  The music is peppy and memorable in that big-band/swing dance kind of way and while the story does need a little trimming (especially that courtroom scene) I could see a snappier version of this show running at New World Stages or on Theatre Row at the Acorn, Clurman, or Beckett.  The allure and mystery of that era could even propel this one to Broadway after some tweaks, improvements, adjustments - and the addition of a star or two.  Think After Midnight and you'll get the idea of what's possible.

TMZ and Gawker would not be what they are today without Mr. Confidential and his magazine.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Beautiful - The Carole King Musical

This might be referred to as a juke box musical and I will admit I usually don't go see these very often.  However, someone so embedded in the musical fabric of a generation deserved a shot.  The one thing I learned is that this is not just the Carole King story!  The title is a bit misleading as we are treated to the songs and lyrics from not only Carole King and Gerry Goffin but also Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.  The format is essentially a back-and-forth with the dueling teams fighting for the next number-one hit that a popular group would sing.

Back in their day, the songwriters were not well known and didn't perform at all (today some songwriters are actually performance artists in their own right, others remain behind the scenes like these folks).  Right from the start we learn that Carole never wanted to be a performer -it was not her dream.  We learn that it is something that came about after being married, having two kids and divorcing and moving to California.  It evolved as she "grew up" and "found her own voice".

Jessie Mueller (Carole King) does a wonderful job at transforming from a young, enthusiastic Jesish kid from Brooklyn who skipped two grades and started writing music - to a mature, full-voiced, emotional singer making her debut record and debut concert at Carnegie Hall.  Jake Epstein (Gerry Goffin) plays her obviously talented, very good looking, and ultimately mentally unstable boyfriend come husband and writing partner (he wrote the lyrics and she wrote the music).  At my performance, the knock-out understudy, Sara King, played Cynthia Weil and she fit the part like a glove!  Jarrod Spector rounded out the competing songster couple as hypochondriac funny-man Barry Mann.

From a construction standpoint, the show presents itself by showing you the songs as envisioned by the writers as they are under development (you get a tease of the melody and lyrics to remind you they wrote it) - and then you get treated to groups of actors and singers such as The Drifters, The Shirelles, The Righteous Brothers and Little Eva actually performing the hits including Will You Love Me Tomorrow, The Locomotion, Up on the Roof, and Some Kind of Wonderful.   Very effective for a toe-tapping Broadway musical.  Of course you have to wait till the end to hear Carole in her own voice belt out You've Got a Friend, Will you Love me Tomorrow, Natural Woman, and, of course, the titular number, Beautiful.

The show portrays Carol as an ordinary Jewish woman who found herself thrown into a man's world of music, songwriting, and business and she really just wanted to be a stay-at-home mom to her kids and write her songs.  Little did she know life would throw her a curve ball and thrust her (to our benefit) into the limelight where she got the opportunity to use her own voice to sing her own songs.

Heartwarming, entertaining, and triumphant are words that line up nicely with this show.  I''m left wondering if Jessie Mueller will ride her Tony award winning performance out or we will see someone come in and take over the role on Broadway.  We shall see.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sex with Strangers

Playwright Laura Eason has penned a remarkably intelligent, thought-provoking, well-balanced, two-hander about writers and their plight in today's modern world.

The talented and beautiful Anna Gunn (Olivia) and incredibly hunky and devilishly handsome Billy Magnussen (Ethan) take the helm of the Tony Kiser Theatre at Second Stage this summer in this powerful, tight, and sexy production with David Schwimmer's keen directorial insight.

Billy plows into the Bed and Breakfast in the mountains and fireworks explode from that point forward.  She's a classic writer, strong, sexy, vulnerable and smart.   He's a bold, brash, impish interloper on a mission.  Who is he really?  Is your past part of who you really are?  Can you do bad things and still end up being a good person?  Who is he really?  Well, clothes fly off many times and sparks fly - this is no surprise -  but the depth of their relationship is tested and challenged in many ways.

Should she?  Shouldn't she?  Who is he really?  Go grab a seat at 2ST and find out.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Last Ship

In its pre-Broadway try-out at the Bank of America Theater in Chicago, Sting's new musical, The Last Ship, is working out the kinks and honing its message for the masses of New York City this fall.

Sting has penned a surprisingly remarkable score fit for Broadway.  It's lush.   It provides a rich backdrop to the entire production and lifts the actors to amazing heights on the stage.  I'm the first to admit, I was impressed (I mean my expectations were set low after that Bono-Spider debacle).

The spunky and powerful Rachel Tucker (Meg Dawson) and smooth, throaty, and devilishly handsome Michael Esper (Gideon  Fletcher) with a voice like Sting's aptly helm the cast with support from such greats as Fred Applegate (Father O'Brien) and the always amazing Aaron Lazar (Arthur Millburn).

Now, to be honest, the story is not the happiest.  It's not exactly the most riveting or interesting.  It's a love story as many are.  It's set in an English shipbuilding town in North East England and has, as you would expect, the requisite love, rejection, acceptance, and key character death, general conflict, and will certainly entertain some.

I suspect it will not have mass-appeal as is required by a Broadway show these days, but Sting and his music will likely sell enough tickets to warrant the large investment to mount a Broadway show these days before the story's downside will overtake the music's upside.

I love checking out shows out of town and this one was no exception.  If you love Sting and want to see him showcase his musical talents in an entirely new way - get your ticket to the New York production today!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

It has a cult following.  It's a mix of glam-rock and drag queen.  It's got heart and is rather in-your-face about the whole affair.

Neil Patrick Harris takes the reigns of this monster and reels it in for a big Broadway pay-off.  Hedwig (Harris), by all accounts is a mess, yet she manages to fill your heart with warmth and your belly with laughter. With his unique mix of charm, good looks, (check out the body on this fine 40-something specimen!), and a true entertainer, Mr Harris' gamble on this show truly pays off in what some might consider a spectacle of lights, song, and love.

Unlike the movie, this version is told much like a one-night only concert at the Belasco Theatre - current day.  Hedwig regularly breaks the 4th wall to chat with the audience and banter with a man in the box seat where Mr. Belasco's ghost may often may be seen, thus indicating a successful run of a show, and even kiss a lucky boy in the front row!

Throughout the evening the stage show never ceases to impress.  Outrageous costumes and makeup, concert style lighting to whip the audience into a frenzy, and a cadre of tunes simply rock the house down.  The lovely Lena Hall also does double duty as a man (Yitzhak) who blossoms in the end.

I'm pretty sure there will never be a performance - tourists included - that doesn't end in a raucous standing ovation for Mr. Harris, Ms. Hall, and the entire band.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Just Jim Dale

The Roundabout Theatre Company strikes (out) again.  Jim Dale is an extraordinary song and dance man  He's likable, flexible, and talented - even at this ripe old age of 79 - he's a powerhouse of energy and enthusiasm on the stage!  He's a treasure to behold with talents beyond just the theatre - including music, television, film, and voice work.  One small problem.  Roundabout is not the Cafe Carlyle.

Jim is, perhaps, most well known for his portrayal of P.T. Barnum in the 1980 Broadway musical Barnum.  More recently, however, cult followers of J.K Rowling all over the world would know his voice as the narrator of all 7 of the audio books for the Harry Potter Series.

Notice that I have only great things to say about this talented gent.  However, in another epic fail of the Roundabout Theater Company, we subscribers have been subjected to yet another cheap excuse for a show.  While Jim Dale is a treasure of the American and British culture, this show is yet another example of Artistic Director Todd Haimes' fledgling budget.  This "show" is nothing more than a cabaret act.  Roundabout is stretched very thin and simply cannot afford to put on 6 quality shows any longer (even if 3 of them are off-Broadway).

Shame on you (again) Roundabout.  I hope you wake up ad shake things up.  If you hold onto the pipe dreams of somehow producing the next big hit to fund your coffers all the while financing the rest of your seasons cheaper and cheaper on the backs of your subscribers, you are doomed to extinction.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bullets Over Broadway

I was moderately entertained.  Indeed, I was.  However, knowing what I know, I feel a bit cheated.  If I didn't know any better (as most of the out-of-towners who attend these sorts of big productions), I guess nothing would seem to of place.  In his new musical this season, Woody Allen chose to not create any original music for the stage adaptation of his film by the same name.  Seems odd to me.  Such a prolific and arguably successful director, actor, and writer - why would he omit such a core ingredient from a new "musical".  Oh yes, there was music, but it was all existing and just carefully selected, recycled, re-arranged, and plopped into the story.   It frankly hit a sour note in my book.  That aside, the music chosen seemed stylistically appropriate.  Nothing too bad.  Just not original.  Not fresh.

If music were the only problem with the show, I'd be inclined to overlook the issue mostly.  However, when you combine it with the problem of casting - Houston, we've got a problem.  Don't get me wrong, Zach Braff turned in a decent performance and I can honestly say that even for a Wednesday evening performance (after a matinee) it seemed he gave it his all.  But it just wasn't enough.  His character, playwright David Shayne, cries out for a performance by none other than the goof-ball Matthew Broderick.  The entire performance, from beginning to end, was delightful, but not excellent.  It was as if Zach himself invested in the show, so they felt obliged to give him the lead over much more appropriate choices (you'll get the reference once you see the show).  I don't really even know if the part was even offered to Mr. Broderick, but it certainly seemed to me that it should have been.

Nick Cordero turned in a tortured and hysterical performance as Cheech the gangster with a penchant for writing - including one steal-the-show number.  Vincent Pastore may have appeared as goomba Johnny on The Sopranos, but his stage presence is about as engaging and entertaining as a wet sponge.  Marin Mazzie's (Helen Sinclair) star power out-shinned just about everyone else in the production except, perhaps, for Karen Ziemba, whose talents seemed utterly wasted on Eden Brent, the adorable dog-carrying actress to whom that had to give a solo number in Act II just to make sure she didn't quit.   Helene Yorke (Olive) turned in a great performance, but once again, you felt the part was perhaps written for someone else - maybe, let's speculate, Katie Finneran.  Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't.  The show had a spectacular chorus of male dancers (think gangsters) and female dancers (think The Rockettes) both sets of whom dazzled throughout the entire show.

Uneven casting and poor choices by Woody with respect to music detract from what would otherwise have been another smash hit just like The Producers.  Maybe next time Ms. Stroman.  Given these challenges, this show is destined for mediocrity.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Originally produced for a brief run at Playwrights Horizons in 1997, Violet is seeing a new incarnation at Roundabout's American Airlines Theatre with a star as bright as the moon in a dark night sky, Sutton Foster.

The original production did not run very long, which is not surprising.  This incarnation seems to be doing a bit better despite the sparse sets and limited choreography.

Make no mistake, Sutton Foster, Broadway's darling, brings innocence with power to the production.  Her supporting cast is tremendously talented and also cannot be ignored either.  As a matter of fact, her co-star, Joshua Henry, has, what one might say, is "the num-bah" of the entire show, bringing the audience nearly to it's feet early on.

However, despite my high level of engagement and enjoyment, I was not moved to put this show any where near the winning slot for Best Musical.  Most noticeably, the show has what I would call the Encores! staging model (indeed, the show transferred from Encores! after it's summer 2013 run there).  While semi-staging and limited choreography work for a one-night- only run at NY City Center, it certainly has no place on a permanent Broadway stage where you are paying, literally, for a creative team to choreograph, build sets, and move the actors beyond a small rectangle in from of an orchestra/band taking up way to much space on the stage.

Significant financial considerations aside (clearly Roundabout is poor these days and can't afford to do what it used to do - or they've just become a sellout to cheap entertaining shows at the lowest cost), the show packs a powerful message about finding out who you are inside and seeing beyond the surface.   This applies aptly to both Mr. Henry (Flick) and Ms Foster (Violet).

Emmerson Steele (Young Violet) is a treasure to behold, blending perfectly with Ms Foster and the entire aesthetic.  I saw the understudy for Monty (Austin Lesch) and I'm happy to report his performance (and handsome looks) was magnificent.  Alexander Gemignani was also perfectly cast as the fuzzy bear-like mountain-man father of Violet.

Best Musical, I hope not.  But certainly a show worth seeing with a delightful score and performances as good as they get.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

When We Were Young and Unafraid

Sarah Treem has been busy these past few years and I didn't even realize it.   Aside from writing this mesmerizing and provocative new play, When We Were Young and Unafraid, she's been busy working as an executive producer on two very successful and poignant modern television dramas, HBO's In Treatment and Netflix's House of Cards.  Yeah, that's a big WOW.

In this stage play, Sarah brings a woman running a battered women's shelter together with a recent visitor to her secret shelter, an invading nomadic lesbian searching for meaning, a guest of the B&B she runs as the "front" and the girl she calls her daughter.  The year is 1972 and all the rules are different from today.  Packed like a stick of dynamite, this play is about ready to explode off the pages before you throw in the indomitable stage actress Cherry Jones (Agnes), the potent and explosive Cherise Boothe (Hannah), the mesmerizing Zoe Kazan (Mary Anne), the youthful powerhouse  Morgan Saylor (Penny), and the dashing Patch Darragh (Paul).  Light the fuse - and POW - it's burning the entire time.

The entire time is perhaps the only problem with this show - at 2h:20m, it's perhaps a bit too long for its own good.  Not a bad problem to have, however.  Find the least best thing (it's gonna be hard) and trim it down and I think you have the perfect run time for this powerhouse.  Check out the promo video which will help explain a bit further.  In the meantime - get your tickets now - Manhattan Theater Club's Stage I at City Center 


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Red-Eye to Havre De Grace

New York Theater Workshop strikes again with a provocative, edgy, discordant, and artistic presentation of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe on several train rides between New York and Virginia in Red-Eye to Havre De Grace.  Not at all what you expect from the moment it starts to the moment it concludes.  Filled with Dance, operatic rifts, and poetry, the story woven is rich and lush.

Brothers David and Jeremy Wilhelm have teamed up with Thaddeus Phillips and several others to construct this 90 minute work of art.  While it ends up exactly where you know it will, the journey is a wild, tortured, and esoteric ride.  The music in the show was created by the talented brothers Wilhelm and the show exquisitely directed by Mr. Phillips.

Alessandra L. Larson (Virginia Poe) and Ean Sheehy (Edgar Allen Poe) navigate the poetic script with graceful acrobatics, magical dance, and tortured personas.  Jeremy breaks the 4th wall as a narrator of sorts (think explainer-in-chief) while the Poes are completely immersed in their characters and David adeptly tickles various ivories on a few different pianos on the stage.  Even the musical accompaniment is ingenious and artistic at times, the actors ingeniously playing instruments.

Red-Eye is a spectacularly creative - and yes strange - artistic expression of the particular story of a specific point in the life of a talented and tortured man.  Haunting and poetic, it will leave you feeling enriched, bewildered, and satiated all at the same time.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Too Much Sun

 Fresh off her last off-Broadway turned Broadway run, The Lyons, Linda Lavin joins up once again with playwright Nicky Silver once again at the Vineyard Theatre for Too Much Sun, a full length family drama filled with humor and wit.

Linda Lavin (Audry Langham), a once successful, aging actress who is fed up with her diminished roles walks off stage of her seemingly silly engagement as Medea in Chicago and retreats to her daughter's beach house to regroup.  What unfolds is a family drama tangled up with the neighbors in more ways than one.  Mr. Silver's pen is sharp and witty, but his plot is unnecessarily complicated for the story being told and feels a bit like he wrapped it all up in the last 5 minutes.  It's not only the sun that's too much in this production.

All these rabbit holes aside, the show was extremely well acted and directed.  Jennifer Westfeldt (Kitty) and Ken Barnett (Dennis) are Lavin's daughter and son-in-law who are dragged unwittingly into her lair.  Richard Bekins (Winston) and devilishly handsome Matt Dickson (Lucas) are their beach house neighbors also both separately drawn into the family drama and have a drama of their own going on.  Audry's agent's assistant, Matt Dellapina (Gil), was hysterically entertaining and neurotic but involvement overall seemed contrived - especially at the end.

As I write this, I wonder if the character of Lucas even needed to have a storyline with Dennis or if the neighbors storyline needed to be so developed.  I guess we needed parts of it.  The play may have been shorter and punchier if it focused solely on Ms. Lavin's unfortunate yet comical situation.  But alas, perhaps that may have seemed too much like a simple 30 minute sit-com if it were.

From a construction perspective, the play had a prologue which seemed to work, but then there was an Entr'acte after the intermission that seemed a bit awkward.  All told it was a bit choppy overall, but the purposes were served.  A little lighting glitch was dealt with professionally and expeditiously and frankly was a reminder that theatre is live and shit happens.

As with all she seems to do, Ms. Lavin shines and her comedic timing is impeccable, but alas, I doubt this one will transfer to Broadway like the last one did.  In any case, she's one of those people who could read me the phone book and I'm positive I'd be mesmerized.