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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

20 Things We Loved About the Theater World Awards

In which Juan Peron performs "Pinball Wizard," an Oscar winner dresses down, and Tracie Bennett carries a flag.  


TONY AWARDS? Been there, done that several times. Drama Desk Awards? Done that twice now. More intimate, but it still feels a little like a crazed public event.

But if you ever want to feel like a true theater insider, get yourself invited to the Theater World Awards.*

These people have been handing out trophies to actors and actresses making their New York theater debuts since 1944. Past winners come back to present or perform. In the orchestra of the Belasco Theater on a Tuesday afternoon in June, I had never felt more like a real part of the theater community. (Which critics/reporters/editors/bloggers really aren't. We know. But we all have our illusions.) Here are some of the things we truly loved.

(*Editor's Note: theatergossip.com follows New York Times style, and the style rules include spelling the building in which plays, musicals, movies and other entertainments are performed "theater," not "theatre." No matter how the owners of said theater or theater-related institution choose to spell it.)


Which winner quoted from "The Wizard of Oz"? And is there ever a good reason for that?

 

THE PERFORMANCES! 

1. Brian Stokes Mitchell, a past winner for "Ragtime," singing "I Was Here." In that casual, crisp white shirt hanging loose over jeans (or they may have been khakis), as if he'd just wandered into a rehearsal. In the dream-ballet version of life.

2.  Michael Cerveris recreating a great moment from "The Who's Tommy," accompanying himself on the guitar as he rocked "Pinball Wizard." Cerveris was Tony-nominated this year for his role as Juan Peron in "Evita," but he's even better in rock mode.


Quien es mas macho? A turn-of-the-century newsboy, an aging salesman's aimless son or a disciple who betrayed Our Lord?

THE WINNERS! 

Did they choose the male winners this year for performing or for being young and devastatingly good-looking? Just to choose three at random: 

3. Jeremy Jordan (the star of "Newsies," but being honored for his turn as Clyde Barrow in "Bonnie and Clyde").

4. Finn Wittrock (he was Happy in "Death of a Salesman").

5. Josh Young (Judas Iscariot in "Jesus Christ Superstar").

The last time I saw this kind of aggregation of male beauty in one place, I was in Ireland on the set of "The Tudors." But then, with apologies to JFK's comment about Thomas Jefferson, I have never been around when George Clooney dined alone.

6. Tracie Bennett, who was a shoe-in for her performance as Judy Garland in "End of the Rainbow," came onstage waving a tiny Union Jack. A loyal Briton, she didn't want Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee celebration, going on in London, to be ignored.

7. Josh Young again, for his practical view of religion.  "Despite my Judaism, I'd like to thank Jesus Christ."

8. Jeremy Jordan again, for his self-deprecating explanation of why he became an actor. "I just knew I didn't want to be myself."

9. Russell Harvard's very gracious acceptance speech, which he both spoke and signed. Harvard, who is hearing-impaired, received his award for his portrayal of a deaf young man in "Tribes."

Which actress majored in economics and religion? And did it do her any good?


THE PRESENTERS!

10. Leslie Uggams's claim that David Merrick had fallen asleep during her audition for "Hallelujah, Baby!"

11. David Alan Grier admitting with a comic gleam in his eye that seeing how good Phillip Boykin was as Crown in "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" brought out his envious side.

12. Wesley Taylor saying pretty much the same thing about Jeremy Jordan. "All I could think to myself" the first time I saw him, Taylor recalled in his introduction, "was 'What an asshole!' "

13. Isabel Keating's clever introduction in which she managed to relate Hettienne Park's college days as a double major in economics and religion with her win for appearing in Tony Kushner's  "Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism & Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures." (Park also won for "Seminar," making her Off Broadway and Broadway debuts in the same season.)

14. John Cullum. Just because he's John Cullum. (His Theater World Award was for the 1966 production of "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.")



Who were those cute little girls handing out the awards?

 

THE SETTING!

 15. "End of the Rainbow" is playing at the Belasco, and the set remained in place during the awards presentation. Since it's supposed to be a suite at the Ritz Hotel in London, that worked just fine. And it gave Bennett a chance to say, "There's no place like home."

THE FASHIONS!

16. Jennifer Lim, a winner for "Chinglish," looked fabulous in a soft black jacket, black top, black and white new-silhouette short skirt and sparkly black shoes. She was also the first recipient to bend down and make eye contact with the little girl (one of two from the forthcoming "Annie" working the show) who brought her award onstage. 

17. Short red dresses were big, but Crystal A. Dickinson, who won for "Clybourne Park," was a vision of summer in a light blue jacket, white pants and dreads.

18. Philip Seymour Hoffman turned up looking as if he had run out to pick up something at the hardware store,   

19. Victor Garber, who appeared tieless, thanked Hoffman for dressing that way.

20. Tony Sheldon's lavender tie matched his file folder.

Why hasn't theatergossip.com posted about the Tonys yet?



2012 THEATER WORLD AWARD WINNERS

Tracie Bennett, "End of the Rainbow"
Phillip Boykin, "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess"
Crystal A. Dickinson, "Clybourne Park"
Russell Harvard, "Tribes"
Jeremy Jordan, "Bonnie and Clyde"
Joaquina Kalukango, "Hurt Village"
Jennifer Lim, "Chinglish"
Jessie Mueller, "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever"
Hettienne Park, "Seminar" and "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism & Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures"
Chris Perfetti, "Sons of the Prophet"
Finn Wittrock, "Death of a Salesman"
Josh Young, "Jesus Christ Superstar"

DOROTHY LOUDON AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE

Susan Pourfar, "Tribes"


WANT MORE THEATERGOSSIP.COM? Scroll or search. Our most recent post was a roundup of Broadway openings in April and May.  You can also find items on theater greats including Cherry Jones, Jan Maxwell, Mark Rylance, Douglas Hodge, Kristin Chenoweth and Neil Patrick Harris. Not to mention items that reveal who went to Yale School of Drama, who went to Carnegie-Mellon and who just went from high school to stage.

Monday, June 4, 2012

April and May Were Really Rough













ON STRIKE  Jeremy Jordan, standing with arms spread, plays the lead newsboy in the Disney musical "Newsies," based on a 1990s movie flop that became a cult favorite.


LET'S face it. April was way too much for us. Too many Broadway shows opening in order to make the Tony Awards nominations deadline. We did a little catching up in May, but the next thing you knew, it was June.  And awards time.

So here, for purposes of a fresh start, is a round-up of thoughts on recent Broadway shows. (No time for Off Broadway and regional theater this time around.) And of course the big night -- the actual Tony Awards -- is coming up, on Sunday, June 10.


THE COLUMNIST 

 Friedman Theater, 261 West 47th Street, NYC

We love John Lithgow, who plays the midcentury American political columnist Joseph Alsop (and is nominated for a Tony for best lead actor in a play for the role). We're fascinated by stories about closeted gay men in the 1950s and '60s, a period we can actually remember, especially the men who married women, because that's just what you did. David Auburn, who gave us "Proof," wrote the script. The supporting cast has the astounding Boyd Gaines as Joe's brother, Margaret Colin as the woman Joe marries and Grace Gummer as her teenage daughter. (And as soon as we figure out the difference between Grace and her sister Mamie, we will tell you.) The play begins with Alsop in bed with a handsome young Soviet spy.



Tell me again: Which one is Mamie Gummer? And which one is Grace?

DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER 

American Airlines Theater, 227 West 42nd Street, NYC

Sometimes farce works. Sometimes it doesn't. The theory is that "Don't Dress for Dinner" wouldn't have made it to Broadway at all if Mark Rylance hadn't been so brilliant in "Boeing-Boeing." Well, Mark Rylance isn't in this show, which is standard bedroom farce with a married couple, both of whom have lovers, and a case of mistaken identity involving a French cook and a mistress. Happily, Spencer Kayden, who made us love her as Little Sally in "Urinetown," is in the show, as the chef, whose bargaining skills are as good as her hollandaise. Ms. Kayden is Tony-nominated in the best featured actress in a  play category. The show's only other nomination is for costume design.

END OF THE RAINBOW 
Belasco Theater, 111 West 44th Street

"End of the Rainbow" establishes once and for all that no, we are not tired of Judy Garland's suffering. Tracie Bennett, the blond Londoner who puts on a dark wig and an American accent and inhabits Garland near the end of her sad, too-short life, deserves every award she is going to win. She was handed the Drama Desk Award for best actress in a play (there are musical numbers, but it's not a musical) on Sunday night, and we hope she has another great dress for Tony night. The estimable Michael Cumpsty, who plays the star's loyal accompanist and friend, is also nominated, in the featured-actor category.  And if "The Man That Got Away" doesn't touch your heart, you must be Dick Cheney.


Revelation: The sexy French chef  in 'Don't Dress'is Little Sally from 'Urinetown.'

EVITA
Marquis Theater, 1535 Broadway, NYC

London theatergoers adored Elena Roger, an honest-to-God Argentine, as Eva Peron in this solid revival. All New York critics could talk about was her inability to hit some notes that Patti LuPone would have had no trouble with. But Roger is a real actress, and it's a scandal that she wasn't honored with a Tony nomination. The highly respected Michael Cerveris, who plays Juan Peron, was -- as was Rob Ashford's choreography, Christopher Oram's scenic design and the revival itself.  The pop star Ricky Martin plays Che Guevara. That's all we're saying. 




GHOST THE MUSICAL 
Lunt-Fontanne Theater, 205 West 46th Street, NYC
Charles Isherwood* called it a "thrill-free singing theme-park ride,"  writing  in The New York Times. We sadly have to agree. "Ghost the Musical" is just a big video presentation with a few live actors hanging around the edges. One of them, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, who played Oda Mae the fake psychic, did pull in a Tony nomination for featured actress in a musical.  Even those of us who count the movie version, with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg, as a guilty pleasure couldn't find much to love here. But there were some girls who looked about 14 who seemed thrilled with every moment, so maybe it'll be the next "Wicked."

(*Editor's Note: Yes, an earlier version of this post did say Christopher Isherwood. I make fun of people all the time for making that mistake, and so I deserve intense ridicule for doing it myself. Sorry, Charles! I do know your name.)


A spirit overshadowed by music video. A Che who belongs in one.

GORE VIDAL'S THE BEST MAN
Schoenfeld Theater, 236 West 45th Street, NYC

Some found this revival of a political story set at a presidential convention in 1960 a little quaint. Others found it period-perfect. James Earl Jones got a Tony nomination as lead actor in a play, even though his character, a Trumanesque former president, was far from the lead. John Larroquette, who played the more moral of the two major candidates, wuz robbed. No nomination. But we were all looking at Candice Bergen, the great Hollywood beauty of the baby-boomer generation, who has gained weight and looks quite matronly. But her comic timing is still in great shape.

 

LEAP OF FAITH 
St. James Theater, 246 West 44th Street, NYC

It is never a bad thing to spend a couple of hours with the sexy Raul Esparza. And if he wanted to be a fake faith-healing Christian evangelist, I'm sure he could charm and fool all kinds of people across the country. But this musical, based on an old Steve Martin movie, goes all sentimental. Will the Kansas town's beautiful sheriff with the disabled son who wants to be healed soften the evangelist's heart and make him a changed man? A lot of us sort of didn't really want that to happen.

   Could it ever work out between a fake faith healer and a single-mom sheriff with scruples?


NEWSIES 
Nederlander Theater, 208 West 41st Street, NYC

The big flop 1992 movie that this musical is based on has a lot of fans (it turned into a sort of cult classic for kids). That, presumably, is why Disney thought it would make it a successful Broadway show. So here it is at the Nederlander, the story of an 1899 newsboys' strike, with the handsome young Jeremy Jordan (who also starred in "Bonnie and Clyde") as Jack Kelly, the head newsboy.  (That role was played in the film by 18-year-old Christian Bale, eight years before he made it big as a serial killer in "American Psycho.") It is very bouncy and perky and has more than half a dozen Tony nominations, including one for Jordan and one for best musical.



ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS 
Music Box Theater, 239 West 45th Street, NYC

Even if you're not wild about farce, you have to admit when it's done exceptionally well. And I'm not, and I do. James Corden is close to perfection as the star of this revamp of Goldoni's "Servant of Two Masters," set in 1963, when beehive hairdos and a Liverpool band called the Beatles were the coolest things. Compared notes with other theatergoers suggest that all of the audience participation is faked, but that's our favorite kind of audience involvement. Get the actors to do it. Seven Tony nominations, including one for Corden, of course, and one for Tom Edden, playing a very elderly waiter who may want to reconsider his pacemaker.


Maybe 1963 beehive hairdos are farce enough.


A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE 
Broadhurst Theater, 235 West 44th Street, NYC 

It seemed like a perfectly good idea to do Tennessee Williams's masterpiece about an aging Southern belle who is raped by her roughneck brother-in-law with a multiracial cast. But whatever the handsome Blair Underwood exudes on screen just evaporates onstage, at least in this role. And when you barely notice that your Stanley Kowalski has made his entrance, you're in trouble. Nicole Ari Parker, who plays Blanche Dubois, is getting the good reviews, but everything is relative.

WANT MORE THEATERGOSSIP.COM? We've got a couple of years of features, quizzes and columns on people from Edward Albee to Zoe Kazan. So scroll or search away. 


Friday, March 23, 2012

Liza at 'Salesman' and Other March Adventures

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID Philip Seymour Hoffman in Mike Nichols's revival of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman."

THEATRICALLY, March came in like a sad play about doomed alcoholics in love and went out like "Jesus Christ Superstar." (Which does not mean, as this might suggest, that it's coming back.) Not sure what to do about the lion-lamb metaphor in this case either. Herewith, most of a month of theater in and around New York.


BROADWAY

DEATH OF A SALESMAN

Barrymore Theater, 243 West 47th Street, NYC
Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Not every New York critic was in love with Philip Seymour Hoffman as Arthur Miller's aging, not-so-well-liked Willy Loman, but a lot of them were. (See Thom Geier's brief review from EW.) And that sort of thing brings the big names into the audience. Liza Minnelli was there the night my friend A and I saw it. (Liza did not join us in the ladies' room line at intermission.) Alan Alda was sitting across the aisle from us. And this was one night when sitting in Row C was a privilege, so close to such an amazing performance and performer. Andrew Garfield as Biff wasn't bad either. Must pay more attention to him in the future.


ONCE
Jacobs, 242 West 45th Street, NYC
Thursday, March 22, 2012

So apparently there was this movie, "Once," that everyone who saw either adored or despired. About a discouraged young musician and a young Eastern European woman who turns his life around. Now it's a Broadway musical, and I might have enjoyed it, but I was in a sullen mood because my friend B had canceled at the last minute. And only because his boyfriend had had open-heart surgery. Where are some people's priorities, really? Anyway, some of the music seemed nice.


JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
Neil Simon, 250 West 52nd Street, NYC
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

They loved this production at Stratford (the one in Canada, not Britain or Connecticut), but it hasn't gotten the unanimous raves we all expected. But my friend D and I thought it was fabulous. He was working with a youthful love for the original British album in the early 1970s. I was working with memories of having seen the first Broadway production around the same time. Twice. I was very taken with Tom Hewitt as Pilate, although D, raised in some Christian denomination or other, claimed not to know exactly who Pilate was. (Answer: Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, who was pretty sure Jesus was getting a raw deal but succumbed to pressure and ordered his crucifixion anyway.) And I'd forgotten how much I loved the lyrics of "The Last Supper." "Always hoped that I'd be an apostle/Knew that I would make it if I tried/And when we retire, we can write the gospels/So they'll still talk about us when we've died."


OFF BROADWAY

RUSSIAN TRANSPORT
Acorn Theater, 410 West 42nd Street, NYC
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Janeane Garofalo is playing the mom. Of teenagers. Wasn't it just yesterday she was playing Jerry Seinfeld's young, marriageable soul mate on "Seinfeld"? Both my friend L and I agreed that she did an outstanding Russian accent. We also found the villain (Morgan Spector) -- I'm pretty sure he was importing young girls as sex slaves -- frighteningly convincing. It's always a relative, isn't it? Charles Isherwood of The New York Times ("A Family Reunion, With a Chaser") wasn't madly in love with it but liked the performances.


THIRDS
Lion, 410 West 42nd Street. NYC
Thursday, March 8, 2012

Went to this because a friend of a friend was in it. Cute story about three sisters who inherit their childhood home and differ in what to do with/to it.


A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN
City Center, 131 West 55th Street, NYC
Thursday, March 15, 2012

My guest, N, left after Act I. (And this production is in three acts, so that was quite a vote of no confidence.) I don't think she likes Eugene O'Neill. Or at least not Eugene O'Neill with country accents. Eric Grode, writing in The Times ("Boozy Nights of a Ravaged Dreamer"), was much kinder, concluding that the production "illuminates O'Neill's unlikely lovers with a bruising and yet benevolent glow." I saw Colleen Dewhurst and Jason Robards in these roles a hundred or so years ago, so I'm spoiled but was still fine with the performances and direction. Far more important, of course, I ran into someone I knew, so I wasn't lonely at intermission(s).


THE LADY FROM DUBUQUE
Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC
Friday, March 16, 2012

A revival of one of Edward Albee's flops that this time around got a very favorable Times review ("Who Am I? Why Are We Here? Oh, Hello, Death."). Ben Brantley called it a "scintillating revival." It starts with two couples at a dinner party, at which the hostess is battling cancer. Then Death shows up. Jane Alexander plays Death and is quite elegant in the role.



REGIONAL

DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES
Schoolhouse Theater, Croton Falls, NY
Sunday, March 4, 2012

I loved the 1962 movie, so I was thrilled to have a chance to review this for the Westchester pages of The Times ("Losing It All for Another Drink"). The most important thing I learned was that in the original television play (the basis for the movie), the Lee Remick character, a beautiful young secretary, was already an experienced social drinker when she met the Jack Lemmon character, a PR man with limited scruples. I liked the story so much more when she went from a chocolate addiction to brandy Alexanders. Also, who knew that Cliff Robertson had originated the Jack Lemmon role?


DAMN YANKEES
Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, NJ
Sunday, March 11, 2012

Reviewed this one for The Times too ("The High Price of a Baseball Winning Streak"). I loved everything about the production but the actress who played Lola. And I liked her a lot in another show (the concert version of "Company," with Neil Patrick Harris as Bobby, which was filmed). She just seemed miscast here.


TRAVESTIES
McCarter Theater Center, Princeton, NJ
Saturday, March 17, 2012


Also an assignment for The Times. Here's my review ("Nimble Wordplay and Wink at History"). In the actual paper, I repeated a line of dialogue as "My heart belongs to Dada." Turns out the script actually says "My art belongs to Dada." (Luckily, on the Internet, no one can see your original error.) The really pathetic part is that this is the third time I've seen "Travesties," starting with the original Broadway production. So I'd been misunderstanding this line for more than 35 years. Dear Tom Stoppard: I am so sorry. Of course your correct version is twice as funny.


WANT MORE THEATERGOSSIP.COM? Scroll or search to find more theatergoing reminiscences, quizzes and celebrity items. You'll find scores of theater notables, including Theresa Rebeck (in the news because of NBC's "Smash"), Christian Borle (in the news because of "Smash") and Jeremy Jordan (in the news because of the Broadway opening of "Newsies").

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Rich Downsize in 'Painting Churches'

LEAVING HOME Kate Turnbull, left, as an artist who wants to paint her parents' portrait while they're busy moving, and Kathleen Chalfant as her mother in "Painting Churches."

THIS is not a review site, but sometimes we do speak up to agree (enthusiastically) with somebody else's review.

WHAT THE TIMES SAID
If you read David Rooney's review of Tina Howe's "Painting Churches" ("Blue-Blooded and Tone-Deaf on Beacon Hill") in The New York Times last week, then you know this site's opinion too. To illustrate, we'll borrow some quotes.


THE BOSTONIANS
Kathleen Chalfant and John Cunningham are "transfixing as Boston blue bloods," combining a "composed elegance with a candid reality slowly revealed." Kate Turnbull, as their daughter, gives a "strained, actressy performance, which strikes a note of shrill desperation." Since this is a three-character play, that's a life-threatening flaw.

'MOMMY, LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!'
Howe's play was first produced in 1983. I saw it for the first time during the 1985-86 academic year in Boston, on the edge of the upper-crust neighborhood where the story is set. At that point in my life, I identified with the daughter, an artist who has spent her life desperately wanting Mom and Dad's approval. Somehow she thinks painting their portrait will turn around a lifetime of emotional distance.

IT'S ALL ABOUT LETTING GO
This time around, I didn't exactly identify with the parents, only with their plight. (My friend A, who grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, said they reminded her of her parents at times.) But the party days are over. After decades of the good life, the Churches can no longer afford their Boston home, so they're packing up, selling and moving full time to their beach cottage. At the same time, Mr. Cunningham's character feels parts of his brain slipping away, while Ms. Chalfant realizes her future will have to be devoted to taking care of him.

PLAYS ABOUT DISEASES
The star attraction is Ms. Chalfant, of course, best known for her Tony Award-nominated role in the original Broadway production of "Angels in America" (Tony Kushner's AIDS masterpiece) and her Drama Desk Award-winning tour de force in "Wit" (in which she played a professor battling brain cancer).

"Painting Churches," by Tina Howe, directed by Carl Forsman, Clurman Theater, 410 West 42nd Street, (212) 239-6200, telecharge.com.

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COMING SOON

"A Moon for the Misbegotten," "The Lady From Dubuque," "Death of a Salesman," "Once" and "Jesus Christ Superstar"

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

'Tribes' at Barrow Street: Abusing the Deaf

GOOD LISTENERS The cast of "Tribes," from left, Mare Winningham, Jeff Perry, Susan Pourfar, Gayle Rankin, Russell Harvard and Will Brill.

In which a hearing family is deaf to their son's needs . . .


FIRST of all, they've got to do something about the sauvignon blanc at the Barrow Street Theater. Whoever does the buying for the bar should know that my friends J & C and I are proud of our superhuman tolerance for cheap house wines, but this almost did us in. On the other hand, it's a generous pour and they let you take your drinks back to your seats. (Which is a variation, I guess, on "The food there is just terrible. And such small portions.")

Nina Raine's "Tribes," the current production at Barrow Street, was another story. Ben Brantley's review in The New York Times ("World of Silence and Not Listening") calls it "a smart, lively and beautifully acted new play that asks us to hear how we hear, in silence as well as in speech." Agreed.

Oversimplified plot summary: There's this nice but seriously dy
sfunctional intellectual family. Parents and three grown children. One of those children is deaf. The parents deliberately did not teach the boy sign language for sort of passive-aggressive reasons. Things go as smoothly as possible, from their point of view anyway, until the deaf son (Russell Harvard) meets a woman (Susan Pourfar) who was brought up by deaf parents and is now losing her own hearing. As he falls in love, he begins to see having been forced to "hear" only by lip-reading as a betrayal.

Is being part of the deaf community privilege or marginalization? What makes someone a full, functioning member of a family or any other kind of tribe -- or sets that person apart?

I was drawn to "Tribes" not because of all the award nominations its original London production earned, but because of its director, David Cromer, who did a perspective-changing production of "Our Town" at this very same theater in 2009.

Oh, and the Arizona-born Mare Winningham, who plays the mom, does a swell British accent.

"Tribes," by Nina Raine, directed by David Cromer, Barrow Street Theater, 27 Barrow Street, (212) 868-4444, smarttix.com.

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COMING SOON

"Painting Churches," "A Moon for the Misbegotten," "Death of a Salesman,"
"Once" and "Jesus Christ Superstar"
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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Seeing 'Carrie,' the Flop We Missed in 1988

RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION Marin Mazzie, left, and Molly Ranson as crazy mother and bullied daughter in the Off Broadway revival of "Carrie."

In Which the Mean Kids Don't Die Nearly Gruesomely Enough . . .

Dear Long-Lost D:

REMEMBER 1988, when Reagan was in the White House, Melanie Griffith had big Staten Island hair in "Working Girl," and we were just kids (relatively)?

Remember when you first heard that "Carrie" was being made into a musical and you thought it was the greatest idea since the casting of Divine as the mom in "Hairspray"? You immediately invited me and ordered tickets. And then the reviews were so colossally awful that the show closed after four days. Before the date we were supposed to see it.

That's why it breaks my heart to tell you this, D. It's back. And because you're not on the planet anymore, you're missing it again.

The reviews are in ("Prom Night, Bloody Prom Night"; "Carrie: Blood Lite & Boring"; " 'Carrie' Is Back, Shock-Challenged and Bloodless"), and no one seems to think this is a production worth reincarnating for. They're doing it at the Lucille Lortel in the Village instead of in a big Broadway theater this time, which seems like a good idea. Apparently the last one ("The Telekinetic 'Carrie,' With Music," Frank Rich's review) was pretty splashy and big on special effects.

O.K., this is the only part of the show I'm going to comment on critically.

As you'll recall, the end of the story is that the mean teenagers who have tormented poor Carrie, the most biologically naive teenager in the world, go for uber-revenge at the prom by arranging to have her doused with blood. But she ends up triumphant by using her newly discovered telekinetic powers and giving them all horrible, much deserved deaths.

But there's no blood in this "Carrie," not even fake blood. It's all done with lighting and projection design. (I'll have to explain about projection design later. It's all the rage in the 21st century.) The evil kids die, but they do it in a stylized way that a modern ballet company or a performance artist at the Whitney Biennial might use, and it looks annoyingly painless. What fun is this story if we don't see the arrogant cool kids suffer?

John Simon was there the night my friend B and I saw it. Simon is not at New York Magazine anymore. He's at bloomberg.com. (I'll explain .com to you later too.) And you know how old you'd be by now, so imagine how mature he is. It was good to see that the great man takes the subway.

But then everybody does these days. Oh yeah, you missed the Great Recession too.

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COMING SOON

More of last week's theater adventures: "Tribes" and "Painting Churches"

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"Carrie," by Lawrence D. Cohen, Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford, directed by Stafford Arima, Lucille Lortel Theater, 121 Christopher Street, (212) 352-3101, mcctheater.org.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Watching 'Steve Jobs' While Clutching My iPhone

AND DON'T GET ME STARTED ON SIRI Mike Daisey in a return engagement of "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" at the Public Theater.

In Which a Crazy Lady Won't Stop Laughing . . . and the Public's New Ladies' Room Makes a Dazzling Debut . . .



I MISSED "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" when it first arrived at the Public Theater last fall. But Mike Daisey, whose solo show this is, has returned for another round. And it's still such a hot ticket that many theater journalists are being given only single tickets, not the usual pair.

At some point I read the New York Times review of the show ("Moral Issues Behind iPhone and Its Makers"), but I'd gotten it into my head that Mr. Daisey played Jobs, the founder of Apple, regarded since his death in October as a fascinating devil god.

No.

Mr. Daisey spends the evening seated at a desk, Spalding Gray-style, talking about Jobs and Apple, the company he and Steve Wozniak created. And his real purpose appears to be to wake up those of us who live by the i (Phone, Pod, Pad, etc.). Apple's manufacturing setup and work conditions in Shenzhen, China, he tells us, are just as hideous as any we've ever heard of. He has tales of 13-year-old girls with permanently deformed hands, injuries that could have been prevented just by varying work assignments.

I did feel hideously guilty holding my iPhone in my left hand throughout the performance. (I've stopped putting the thing away during one-acts, because I'm constantly losing it, dropping it or just forgetting where I've stashed it.)

When "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" wasn't horrifying, it was consistently quite funny. But I almost began to wish it weren't because of the woman behind me, who laughed (a horrible laugh, sort of like Fran Drescher's, but without the accent) at everything. This woman, I swear, laughed at commas.

The biggest thrill of the evening came later. The Public, as you may know, is in the middle of a major renovation. And now at least one important project has been completed. Theatergoing ladies, I am happy to announce that the Public's new ground-floor women's restroom is a beauty, with stalls as far as the eye can see. (No report yet on the new men's room.)

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COMING SOON

Last week's theater adventures, including "Carrie" at the Lucille Lortel Theater, "Tribes" at the Barrow Street and "Painting Churches" at the Clurman on Theater Row.
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"The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," created and performed by Mike Daisey, directed by Jean-Michele Gregory, Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, East Village, (212) 967-7555 and publictheater.org. Runs through March 18, 2012.