Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Relatively Speaking

Some quick research tells me that these three one-act gems came together around the one that Woody Allen wrote.   The umbrella title, Relatively Speaking, refers to the concept of family - as in your relatives and close friends.  Each of the plays has a connection to that theme and while none of them was written with the other in mind, they certainly have been packaged up together in as a 3-item gift-set for all to enjoy.

The first play, by Ethan Coen (of the famed film brother duo), Talking Cure, is the shortest and starts the evening off with some intelligent and witty banter between a prison inmate (Danny Hoch) and his psychiatrist (Jason Kravits) where we discover his issues probably stem from his mother and father.  Flash back - and we are brought to the dinner table where his pregnant mother (Katherine Borowitz) and father (Fred Melamed) are engaged in banter and bickering that is as acerbic and barb-filled as only a great writer could conjure up.

The second play, by Elaine May, entitled George is Dead, dives a bit deeper into the farcical with the always delightful and still attractive Marlo Thomas playing Doreen, an older, very wealthy, and very shallow woman in New York whose husband has just died on the ski-slopes in Colorado.  Doreen shows up at the apartment of the daughter (Lisa Emery) of her favorite nanny (Patricia O'Connell) who is, herself (the daughter), in the middle of a personal relationship crisis.  Ms. May has succeeded in this medium length gem to mix a ton of hilarity, along with a potent dose of sadness and pity.

The final play, Mr. Allen's Hollywood Motel, is a classic grand-farce that takes place in a seedy 1960's era roadside motel that involves a runaway bride, the mid-life-crisis-filled father of the groom, his wife, the father and mother of the bride, a best friend, a rabbi, a psychiatrist, the groom himself, and a pizza delivery man.  Think hysterical Carol Burnett Show skit.  Think Woody Allen.  Think Jewish humor.  Think - I never laughed so hard in all my life.   This is due, in part, to the all-star cast and their impeccable comedic timing in this gem - Steve Guttenberg, Ari Graynor, Grant Shaud (from Murphy Brown), Caroline Aaron,  Julie Kavner (Marge Simpson's voice), Mark Linn Baker (Bosom Buddies), Richard Libertini, Jason Kravits (The Practice), Danny Hoch and Bill Army.

A nicely packaged, witty, and all around entertaining evening in the theatre.  Every play on Broadway does not have to be a powerful, moving, and ground-breaking drama.  Sometimes you just need to laugh and director, John Turturro, has given us quite a treat this fall season in Relatively Speaking.