Saturday, February 26, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Each of the four young actors - Francis Benhamou, Andrew Guilarte, Bobby Moreno, and Debargo Sanyal (known only as Actors A, B, C and D) performs at full throttle the entire evening - never missing a beat or a word or a queue. Emotions run the gamut from scene to scene but the pace is relentlessly and purposefully quick. Scene changes are executed with precision and aplomb By the time you reach the end, you find yourself at the beginning again.
I won't pretend to understand everything the playwright had to say. There was too much there for my brain to have absorbed every layer, every overt or subversive gesture, word and idea. Hours after the play ends and you're sitting at TriBeCa Bread enjoying your 3rd Manhattan, a new meaning or the nuance of a scene will reveal itself to you. This, I promise. Everything may not be as it seems. Don't believe everything they tell you. Open your eyes and think for yourself. Think. Period.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
The actors all did a fine job - two presidential candidates - Brian Dykstra (Democrat) and Daren Kelly (Republican) - making bumbling errors and pronouncing things incorrectly never fail to entertain. Then there are two "older and more experienced" political advisors - Leslie Hendrix (Republican) and Michael Puzzo (Democrat). Plenty of vitriol, bitterness, and regret going on there. And then we have the two love-hate birds themselves - Matthew Boston (Republican) and Eve Danzeisen (Democrat). Not enough chemistry for my taste here. And it all might have been due to the mis-casting of Mr. Boston. He appeared to me to be too old and out of step with his much younger opponent, Ms. Danzeisen.
Don't get me wrong - the story is entertaining, light, and mostly enjoyable - if only a scosche too long at 2 hours. I don't think anyone should expect the "oh my gosh, i can't believe how it ended" sort of show. If you go in with the low expectations of such a satirical political romp, you'll do just fine.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
I haven't seen a play in a very long time where the quality of the acting was so diametrically opposite to the quality of the script. The all-star cast delivered in every way it could given the poor material. Jason Patric, Keifer Sutherland, Brian Cox, Dan Gaffigan, and Chris Noth pour their hearts into the roles. Trouble is, there are so many dead-ends, undeveloped story lines and lost opportunities in the script that all we're left with is the overbearing coach eternally blathering on about "what makes a winner" and "what it takes to win". By today's standards, I think anyone (even in small-town America) would wonder why these men are so handicapped by and tied to this coach's "wisdom". For all our faults, we're a much more open, independent and thinking society today. I presume that Mr. Miller's desired outcome in 1972 was to see that "the emperor has no clothes", but in 2011 I think all that remains of this show is the picture of a sorry and sad past we should all regret.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Now here's where it gets good - - Take 5 different directors - each of whom gets to rehearse a cast of 5 actors for the show - and don't let them or their casts collaborate. Next, call one member of each cast to the theatre each night to perform his or her part. The result is a fresh, tense, and realistic experience of these characters meeting for the first time in the rubber room each night. You get 25 different casts all performing the same show. I'm sold!
So while I only saw 1 out of those potential 25 casts - I have to say the overall show is a power-packed drama. In short order you get to meet the 5 characters and find out that there just may be 2 sides to every story and accusation. Are teachers to blame for everything wrong in the classroom? Where are the parents? What happened to respect, discipline, and order in the classroom? Who is really running the schools?
I can't say that each night is going to be a grand-slam, but the one I attended was excellent. Discussing the performance we both witnessed and the overall state of the education system in NYC afterwards with my friend over a burger, we both realized how each director might play the same character differently and how the stories of each of the characters might totally change left us wanting to see the show again! While this concept may not work for every show (I doubt you will see this anytime soon in commercial theatre) it certainly felt like it worked with this subject matter. Anytime someone wants to go back and see a show - that seems like a good thing to me. And I'm the one with the "no repeats" rule too!
Sunday, February 13, 2011
While the cast was aptly chosen for their good looks, the play, rather than focus on the subtleties of the relationships, chose to accentuate the stereotypical and painfully obvious plot twists that these people's lives cold have taken. John Hudson (Michael T Weiss) is a rude, annoying, pompous, rich, Wall street guy. Natalie Schiff-Hudson (Donna Bullock) is an over-the-top, former radical turned documentary film maker who seemingly turned "rich guy's wife" allegedly because they used to have good sex and apparently she never bothered to realize her husband was a complete phony, racist, capitalist ass. Elliott Murphy (Daniel Oreskes) - the radical friend who "kept the faith" and has always "fought the good fight" amazingly comes out of the closet after it's safe to do so and is now a big gay daddy who defends terrorists and fights against AIDS - and surprise - has lots of relationship issues. Into this patently obvious storyline comes Mark Colvin (Scott Drummond) a young, good-looking associate at John's office who - get this - looks as straight as a Mormon arrow - but turns out he's gay too. Over the course of this dinner party, more (expensive) wine was uncorked than at a medieval feast and (surprise) the participants reveal exactly what you would expect them to - that none of them are happy and some of them are not what they seem.
With a blueprint that could make a bad lifetime move look good, even the main prop - the wine - was a disaster. Someone in the properties department needs a basic lesson in what color red and white wine should be. (Hint - neither is pink).
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Encouraged by her friends, Margaret takes her job hunt to a (now) "comfortable" doctor she went to high school with in Southie over 30 years ago. They dated briefly and their breakup just might coincide with the time frame that her daughter was born. He "got out" and made something for himself. What will she say to him? How does the meeting go? These questions and more will be answered. Or will they?
Even at just the first week of previews, Parsons and McDormand are turning in top notch performances - and it will only get better from here. My dear friend Donna is usually a bellwether of good actors and great plays - but I fear she may have mis-under-estimated the humor and depth of this fine work. I encourage her and everyone else to check out some Good People on West 47th.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
The Roundabout Theatre Company may have an occasional flop (at least one per season, by recent calculations), but their current production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest is certainly not in that category. Esteemed stage actor, Brian Bedford, directs a superb cast at the same time starring in this 3 act romp. Earnest is one of Wilde's timeless works and this production dishes up barrels of laughs and glamorous sets - a thoroughly entertaining evening in the theatre all around.
One cannot even say that Bedford, playing the role of Lady Bracknell in drag, stole the show. The entire cast around him never missed a beat and elevated the pedestal upon which Lady Bracknell could perch. David Furr (John Worthing) and Santino Fontana (Algernon Moncrieff) - Wilde's two Earnests - have impeccable comedic timing, dashing good looks, and abundance of energy. Charlotte Parry (Cecily) and Sara Topham (Gwendolyn) are smartly coquettish and irresistibly innocent as the ladies who fall for their Earnests. Supporting these two fine couples are the delightful Dana Ivey (Miss Prism) and the charming Paxton Whitehead (Reverend Chasuble).
Wilde's writing is a good as it gets - and the tale told is one that is timeless. Comparisons to the 2002 movie are likely to be made by some - but the stage version is still tops in my book. This comedy of manners is a timeless tale that is is looking to have a long run into the summer at the American Airlines Theater. Get your tickets today. You might want to use your real name or you might not be able to pick them up.