Photo by Don Kellogg

Friday, March 31, 2006


Oh Boy - this one is a bolt of lightning! Ouch! If any of you reading this think that going to plays is all about music, laughter and an occasional teardrop - think again! Festen (the Danish word for Celebration) bites to the core. Some of you may have seen the movie version (named "Celebration" for it's USA release). I hear it is just as dark and bitter.

This is the tale of a rich (and twisted) family in Denmark. The father is turning 60 and the whole family returns to the family house (more like estate) for a dinner celebration. Right from the beginning you meet the characters - all dark - all seem to have something to hide, something "odd" about them, something brewing beneath the surface. You come to learn that one of the children committed suicide last year which makes the tension thicker. It is right from this point that you hear an eerie tone (like you'd hear in a horror movie) start to resonate. Additionally, the sounds of running water and the voice of a small child echo in the background. It's creepy!! (check out the website and you will hear it - http://www.festenonbroadway.com )

Juliana Margulies (ER), Jeremy Sisto (Six Feet Under - Billy Chenowith) are among the faces of the children. Speaking of Six Feet Under, it actually felt a bit like that show. (If you watch, you'd know what i mean). The mother is played by Ali MacGraw - her return to Broadway after many years.

Being a film/play made in the Danish Dogme style (i think i referred to that correctly) - the lighting was all white - no colors. The stage was stark (but that's just like those Danes - think Danish Modern Furniture!). It was all about the art, the story, and the message - not any Glitz and Glamour. That, essentially, is the Dogme Style of film/play making.

Well... If that's what they set out to do - they certainly succeeded. You come to learn at dinner that the father molested his son (and dead daughter). One of the other sons is nutz- of course most aptly played by Billy Chenowith...er... Jeremy Sisto... The mother knew about all this for years and shut it out - playing the ever silent matriarch of the family.

Act II degrades even further into the family swamp. Family members fighting family members, father trying to molest the young granddaughter, other son tries to kill father, mother sobs - and all the while they sing very eerie family songs (they all seem to know the words like they were raised singing them) and dance through the house drunk on the evening's wine.

The use concurrent use of space on the stage by 2 or 3 different sets of characters was amazing. Without having 5 or 6 rooms to play the scenes in, they often all used the same space rapidly alternating the dialogue and lighting all the while seeming to be alone in the space without interfering with the others. Not easy to block out - and not at all easy to perform. The effect only added to the eerie tension of the evening.

Tension, along with an eerie horror movie sound/tone permeated the theater from the minute they walked on stage, to the last word was uttered. I tell you - it was twisted! I hope there's a tall glass bourbon waiting for all of them every night they walk off stage! I know I certainly needed one!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Entertaining Mr. Sloane

It seems that the season of plays at the Roundabout (and beyond!) are all about slightly crazy people. No exception here.

A crazy 41 year old woman who has a sick father and slightly closeted homo brother all seem to revolve around a young, mysterious stranger. Ok, the woman wants him to call her Mom - and at the same time to have sex with him (on both, she succeeds). The father knows the boy killed someone in his past. But he's old and feeble - so who could he tell? The boy would just kill him too. The brother (Alec Baldwin) is a dweeby, British aristocrat (with two cars) and all the same a closet case! There was much innuendo and double entendre in all the dialogue... Ok - so the young mysterious boy emerges with his shirt off (um, yes, he's gorgeous and built!) and you find yourself wishing you were on stage instead.

A bit too "British" for me - but all the while well acted and funny. I just have one question - where exactly was the crossover from Act II to Act III?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Based on a Totally True Story

This really is ... Based on a Totally True Story.... it seems that the Playwright, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, has written a play about his own life - a play in which his lead character writes a comic book and plays and gets his "big break" but all around him his life is falling apart....

Unusually conversational - the characters are actually telling you a story - more than ocassionally break the 4th wall to converse with you and explain what is going on (in real life) about this play which is unfolding in front of us. I'm once again reminded that my friend Dennis Larkin could probably explain all the theatrical tricks and gimicks that all probably have technical names to them (e.g. compression and other terms that elude me). What I was left with was a feeling of satisfaction and emotional connection with the characters.

The main character, Ethan Keene (Carson Elrod) and his boyfriend, Michael Sullivan (Pedro Pascal), are the center of the drama. The chemistry between them was palpable. I believed them. I enjoyed them. The Hollywood agent, MaryEllen (Kristine Nielsen), was supurb - truly an "over the top" Hollywood character! I enjoyed her. Ethan's dad was none other than Michael Tucker (you remember LA Law, right?). He was endearing. I enjoyed him.

The pace was quick. Dialogue - snappy - funny - in a word - enjoyable. The two hours really flew. A true-grit New Yorker or die-hard LA resident would surely appreciate the subtle references and the "oh how true it is" references.

I haven't seen a play this funny, this emotionally deep, and thoroughly enjoyable in a quite a while.

This one is, like all other MTC productions, is a limited run... and speaking of run - - you'd better get your sneakers on. This one is worth a sprint!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Confessions of a Mormon Boy

Confessions of a Mormon Boy - (alternate title: "I Need Therapy but Can't Afford it because I Spent All My Money on a Hairpeice - so I Wrote a Show Instead). Steven Fales - what a character!

True - he does have that "Mormon smile". You know - that wholesome look, perfect teeth, high cheek bones, and high school jock body... Well - after about 15 minutes you realize it's all about him (who else would it be about, right?). What this play amounts to is another self-patronizing gab fest - "I had the perfect life on the outside but was messed up on the inside - - - my life spiraled out of control - - but I'm back on track now and I'm gonna be better than ever!!" - - - you know - - - just a different twist on Elaine Stritch, Liza Minnelli, or Judy Garland (at least it didn't end like Judy)!

Right in the playbill, you read that all of his story is true. A few names have been changed and perhaps a little "flair" has been added - but on par this thing is true. What was most disappointing was the whole religious thing. Growing up gay and Mormon - - Hello?! - oxymoron!! Somehow he clings to family and the church - even after he is ex-communicated, his father cuts him off and his wife divorces him (I don't think I could even make this up!). Even after the Mormon church tries to brainwash him (let's just say about 10 years worth) he still has a strong connection to it. He seems smart enough to recognize what has happened - but I for one am simply not a believer. What I see on-stage is one of those people who delights in drama and isn't happy unless he's got 3 problems and conflicts running concurrently. A true Queen!!

As you can see from the picture - he's pretty easy on the eyes (and changing his clothes on stage let's you know that attribute applies from head to toe). I just felt robbed in the end when he took off his hairpeice! Ok - it was one of those - "and I don't need this to be who I am" moments... but c'mon - while perhaps necessary to the drama of his whole life and his "recovery" - - It just made me feel like I was robbed.... He really is 36 years old and has a the body of a 26 year old. You believe every word of his rather successful stint as an escort - who wouldn't - he's gorgeous! - - But then all of a sudden he takes his hair off and the whole persona just crumbles - -

Honestly, without the hair I don't think I would have believed a word of the play! While talking on stage every night about your pathetic life might make you feel good - I think he might just need a bit more work one-on-one with a real shrink!!

Keep us out of it next time, Steven. I'd rather just admire your pictures in the back of HX.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


A mere 4 shows ago - i warned you - beware when the person who WROTE the show actually STARS IN the show too... Here we go again! "Well" is not your standard Broadway play. I'm really not sure what Lisa Korn is trying to convey either. Some mish-mash about how some people are perpetually "sick" and others get "well". (get it? - well, as in healthy).

The play meanders in and out of her "real life" and "stage life". She's one minute putting on a play (scene by scene) and the next chatting with her mother (yes, this is the woman who was asleep in her chair on stage while you are arriving into the theater). I really did like the mother's character - she was the funny one (Jayne Houdyshell). Periodically she applies a theatrical "trick" of switching the stage lights off and speaking to the audience under a focused spot light to confess to us something she doesn't want her monther to hear. (my friend Dennis Larkin will tell me what the name of that theatrical trick is, i'm sure). Low and behold, she then pulls the joke of having her mother tell her - "I can hear you, you know"! Oh brother - how trite!!

She seems to focus on "sick" people - and all i could tell is that she is trying to say the some people need attention, need to create "drama" about something - and in this case it's the "allergies" excuse. "Everything wrong with your health is due to allergies" seems to be what her mother subscribes to - Aches, Pains, Fatigue, and everything else. That was somehow juxtaposed against her mother's desire to live in a racially integrated neighborhood in Detroit in the 1960's. Her mother was somehow able to lead the neighborhood and make it "well" (healing racial devides), but yet she was otherwise a "sick" older lady. (Huh?!! What's the connection?!!)

What's the point? I mean really - we all walked out of the theater wondering what she was really trying to tell us. (remember, she really was speaking to us - breaking the 4th wall and all)....

I have a better perscription for you - stay home in bed and eat some chicken soup - it's only $3.99 at Fairway. Far cheaper than a ticket to "Well".

Tuesday, March 7, 2006


Something off-beat and different. Mixed-Media of sorts. A little dialogue, song, and sprinkled with dance. It's a play, it's a musical, it's ballet?! Well, mostly a play. It's a show about nothing, and at the same time, something. Set in Toutle, Washington (the small town just outside Mt. St. Helens) the play takes place the day BEFORE the infamous erruption of the sleeping giant (May 17th 1980). Of course, you don't get to see an actual erruption (wouldn't that make a mess on stage!?). But you do get to see a "slice of life" play. You get to see a how circumstances around us really do influence our relationships, our desires, and our lives.

Part history lesson, part fantasy - the show entertained. Definately artistic, definately off-beat.

Here (the theater company) is a sort of "artist in residence program" of sorts. I don't pretend to remember all the details, but this show was a long time in the making to bring it to the public.

Visit HERE and you'll be supporting the ARTS, for sure!

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Bernarda Alba

The work of Federico Garcia Lorca - this dark tale of a stern mother and her 5 very dissimilar daughters is simply put - raw. The music varies from light hearted - to mostly dark and sad. Bernarda Alba - a hard, stern, and bitter woman attempts to keep her 5 daughters locked away from the "outside world" after her husband dies. This would be to keep them them pure and innocent. Just like all catholic school girls we know - you can only imagine how that isn't going to work. And boy, it surely doesn't.

The story is an alegory - I suppose to represent the political climate in Spain at the time - the King repressing the people and keeping the country "closed". The sets, music and costumes all fit the story and even the placement of the orchestra atop the stage in one straight line seemed to be part of painting the backdrop for the performance.

An interesting cast - lead by Felicia Rachad, failed to resemble a family. The daughters were too different, too dis-similar. While I like the music and the story - i just didn't feel the depth of the emotion that I think I should have when i left.

I did go for a drink afterwards - who wouldn't! This one is not for those looking for a laugh! Trust me - order a double at the bar ahead of time!

Friday, March 3, 2006

The Wooden Breeks

You know you have to worry when 3/4 of the audience gets up and leaves at the intermission. Well - I did not. I moved right up to the front row for Act II (and I'm glad I did - it was much better than Act I). Granted - that Lucille Lortel theater is a dump and the seats are uncomfortable - but somehow i think people will stay if the story keeps them there. I have to admit - it's a story you have to concentrate on if you're going to follow it (i also admit i did not do so well!). It's a story - truly a "storybook" story - made up - - a dream - - illogical things happen - - and the people wear strange clothes and costumes. It takes place in Wales or Scotland or someplace they speak really funny English - not your normal British English - but the kind even a Brit can't understand so well!

Act I needs a lot of work. I know it's the "setup", but it was too long and too "what-the-heck-is-going-on-here" feeling. Act II really brought it all together, but by then they lost (literally) most of the audience.

Veanne Cox - terriffic (yes, from A Mother a Daughter, and a Gun). Actually I thought all the actors were top notch - it's just the darn story is so twisted and strange! There's a kid who's about 15 years old - and he was so good. I hope I DO see them all sometime again soon!

I guess all I can say in conclusion is that, once again, after you see "all kinds" of shows you start to appreciate how diverse and wonderful the theater can be to all kinds of people. At least I can say, these guys worked HARD on stage and deserved my applause at the end. And they got it too.