Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Mother, A Daughter and A Gun

A Bang-up Job!! Right from the get-go! They not only introduced the gun in act I, they used it in act I (and act II)! I almost thought Olympia Dukakis wouldn't make it past the front door on her entrance! But alas, she survives - - and boy does she partake in one helluva party at her daughter's New York City apartment. Veanne Cox - the angst ridden daughter - takes it just as well as she can dish it out.

Ok, Olympia's hysterical, over-bearing, and delightful to watch - - a true "gem".... but oh, how dark the comedy goes... Really, borderline disturbing! Seems to be a pattern on Broadway this fall (ala Naked Girl on the Appian Way).

Technically, I thought the play was well executed - although Olympia needs to brush up on her lines in a few places... I'm sure that will come with a few more performances before they open. The only other noticeable element was the clever, yet painfully slow set transition from Living Room to Bedroom and back again. I liked the music and lighting effect - but it really needs to speed up. Kudos to the choice of subtle music playing at the bookends of each act.

The deep love and even deeper hatred only a normal, yet warped mother and daughter could share - - this is pretty much the premise of the play. If you thought your family was disfunctional - just wander on over to "A Mother, A Daughter, and a Gun" and I'm sure you'll leave feeling like you grew up on Walton's Mountain!!

Friday, October 14, 2005

City of Angels

For a small theater company and a small theater, City of Angels is a significant undertaking. The show is told in "split screen" - meaning half the show takes place "on a movie screen" and the other half takes place in person. Quite a staging effort, as you can imagine for a small theater. Despite that hurdle - the Chromolume Theater Company seems to have assembled cast quite a talented cast to tell the tale.

Most importantly - my friend Dennis Larkin (the star of the show as far as i'm concerned) was a scene stealing "character" in every sense of the word. He actually played 4 if I counted correctly.

Let's just leave it this way - If City of Angels comes back to Broadway - I'm guessing with enough money behind the staging and the right actors and ensemble - it would be a huge hit (once again).

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Absurd Person Singular

Mildly amusing, but overall I'm still baffled. Act One seems to be the "set-up" to something that would tie the next two acts together... But it just never quite materialized. Three Couples, Three Christmas Eves, Three Kitchens... But what was the "catch"? As the theater emptied slightly for the intermission for the First Act, I overhead a lady behind me asking "I hope this is going somewhere". I concurred. Unfortunately, it didn't and we were stuck in our seats to endure two more acts.

Paxton Whitehead had impeccable timing - he's a comedic gem! Clea Lewis was perky and funny - and also had a vocal affectation similar to The Nanny (Fran Dresher) or Jaaaaaanice (from "Friends") , but used it sparingly (so as not to annoy you as much as the aforementioned characters do). Deborah Rush barreled on and off the stage as the over-the-top, larger-than-life, glam-wife. Michele Enos has mastered the consummate drunk (two times in a row now - she just played the consummate young drunk wife in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf"). Everyone else was just... well... there.

What was missing? A cohesive plot. All I saw was three mildly funny vignettes with a bit of physical commedy and a few laughs with nothing but the same people that tied them all together. There was no "real story". No "catch". No "gotcha". No "Ah-Ha!"

After the third one - i started to think... Run... Don't Walk... (home, that is)!

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Miracle Brothers

Dear Andy Karl,

Seems that your buddy, Tyler Maynard got the better end of the stick! He, too, jumped the Alter Boyz ensemble smash hit to take the leading roll in a less-well-known off broadway production. The difference? A well written, significantly better scored new musical - with a Brazilian beat and some meat on its bones!

Make sure you read the program beforehand, unless you're Brazilian or at least a Brazilian history buff. Once you get the basic (and odd) premise down, it's all about love - in this case the love between two brothers - or half brothers, to be exact. Not a brand new concept, but its certainly unique - especially with the added twist of the Brazilian folklore.

Dolphins, Portals, Slaves, Pirates, two mothers, and two sons - both with green eyes - all in one heck of an enjoyable show in the Rain Forest. If nothing else, you'll leave Miracle Brothers having enjoyed the good looking, scantily-clad cast and tapping your your toes to the funky Brazilian beats.

Friday, October 7, 2005

A Naked Girl on the Appian Way

Goodie-two-shoes, be warned. Subject matter not for narrow-minded conservatives. However, for all you bleeding-heart lberals out there - don't be running down the block to get your tickets either! While I enjoyed many a laughs, the play didn't seem to come alive. The actors all felt like they were... well... "acting" - as opposed to "interacting". Many a one-liner, but it often felt like they were reading the lines - waitng for the laughs - then moving on to the next.

I don't think you could have written a story about a more dysfunctional family with so many social taboos to be revealed over the course of 100 minutes (can you say "sit-com"?). Richard Thomas, as the father, seems to have predictably brought an adult John Boy Walton to the stage - the brilliant, talented, liberal, stuck-to-his-convictions writer. The only difference here is that he is successful and lives in a large house in the Hamptons! Jill Clayburgh, the mother, is the neurotic, at times overbearing and in-denial mother who certainly got plenty of laughs. The 3 adopted children - a neurotic, bi-sexual, Korean librarian in the suburbs, a WASP-y (and gorgeous) dumb jock (Matthew Morrison - "Light in the Piazza"), and an intelligent, educated, well spoken Dominican girl - all in their 20's - all completely different- seemed to complete the very mis-shapen circle known as the Lapin Family!

The actors, much like the family and the two off-beat neighbors - were stiff and uncomfortable in their own shoes. Was that a purposeful instruction from the director (Doug Hughs) to cause you to draw that parallel - or just bad ensemble acting? Through the periodic laughter - I'll leave that decision to you.

** Now - I really didn't read Ben Brantley's review (much more elloquent than mine) before I published this - - but I thought you might like to read what a true professional actually published just yestarday!!


Monday, October 3, 2005

Sweeney Todd

The triumphant return of Sweeney Todd! Straight from London... a truly unique staging, interpretation and performance makes it fresh, exciting, intriguing, and mysterious. Patti LuPone adds an extra dash of "sass", Michael Cervaris, an extra dash of angst. Top it off with the actors all playing multiple instruments live on stage (yes, they ARE the orchestra!) - and that's one delicious "pie" to sink your chops into!

In an amazingly small performance space on a large stage, one immediately notices the vertical dimension of the set - Probably intentional - as it also seemed to parallel the new dimension of the characters - Not to mention the use of the vertical space in the performance itself. Who would have thought a black coffin and stainless steel ladder would be so functional?!

Lighting - well, the flashlights were annoying at times, but unique nonetheless. And of course, the blood red lights and the piercing whistle ubiquitously signaled another client's demise in the infamous barber's chair.

West 49th just might be renamed Fleet Street this fall. Run and get your tickets today before it's "too late"!