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Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Michael Cerveris and his Accomplices

The larger story here is that the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, which is a remarkable organization on Bleecker Street in NoHo, is presenting a series called Convergences.   It's an Indie Artist Series - which showcases artists at the cross-roads of two or more careers (acting, singing, writing, performing, etc.).  Tonight's installment was the always-gracious and ever-talented Michael Cerveris.  Some might never even know the star of stage and screen (he was a regular on The Good Wife, among other things) had a band?   And that's exactly the point of this series.

For Mr. Cerveris it is the opportunity to grace us with his angelic voice and his incredible humility and talent.  His band is a big one - strings, woodwinds, piano, guitars and more!  And what a lush sound they produce backed by the potent vocals of a truly multi-talented leading man.

Mr. Cerveris has a prior album out there - Dog Eared from which he performed several numbers.  He now also has a second album, Piety, recorded at the famed Piety Street Studio in New Orleans with many of his New Orleans musician friends.  Boy oh boy, does Mr. Cerevis have musician friends too - among them Pete Townshend (he plays a guitar he received as a gift from Mr. Townshend).  He also frequents Joe's Pub and 54 Below right here in New York City.

Among my favorites from his 2 distinct sets were Evangeline and Tenth Grade (written by Michael Cerveris, as was everything from his first set) and Life on Mars (David Bowie), Pony Girl (Janine Tesori and Lisa Kron from Fun Home), and Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen) from the 2nd set.  I could think of no better way to end the show in his encore with a rousing rendition of Pinball Wizard by the iconic Pete Townshend / The Who.

Truly multi-talented and not seen nearly enough on a Broadway stage, Mr. Cerevis is a pleasure to watch, enjoy, and appreciate in virtually any venue he appears.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Play That Goes Wrong

 What could possibly go wrong?  In Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields' new play, just about everything is the correct answer.  Costumes, props, sets, and lighting are safely in this category during the approximate 2 hour show.

It's slapstick.  It's physical comedy.  Doors slamming, pictures falling down, Sets falling down. Props switched, missing, and used incorrectly.  It's a mad-cap evening with this play within a play.  You're supposed to be there to watch a small fledgling theatre troupe put on a play entitled Murder at the Havesaham Manor.  What ensues is nothing short of complete mix ups and mayhem. Actors get knocked out.  Sets fall apart and literally collapse with actors atop them.  The elevator literally explodes and that damn front door just won't stay closed.

The actors in this play within a play are true hams.  It doesn't hurt that the book writers also star in their own madcap comedy.   Sound guy Trevor (Rob Falconer) could care less about his job and it shows.  Jonathan Sayer (book) takes a role as Max the butler with hysterical results. Henry Lewis (book) takes on a role as the outrageous brother Robert.  Henry Shields (book) takes on the role of Chris.  Nancy Zamit (Annie) a backstage gal does battle with Charlie Russell (Sandra) the onstage actress to see who will be standing to play the role of the heroine.  There are a few other cast members but if there was ever the case that an ensemble needed to hang it all together, this is the one.

All in all it's a Noises Off kind of comedy - extremely physical where timing is key.  On the first public performance here in the USA, this British sensation was banging on all cylinders. When the curtain comes down (along with the set) you'll find yourself just as exhausted as the actors from all the hilarity and laughter.

For some it may be a bit over the top but I'm going to guess if you don't like this kind of play you won't be buying a ticket anyway.  There's an audience for this kind of play and I suspect they will show up at the theater to see what could possibly go wrong.