Carol Kane's talents are trapped in a play about Bette Davis that's like 'Dolores Claiborne' on barbiturates
Kane avoids most (though not all) of the shopworn external gestures that so often define Davis impersonators—the over-punctuated speech, the wild gestures with cigarette in hand, the wide and crazy eyes—and instead finds a more internal point of connection to the late star. Her goal, it seems, isn’t to doBette Davis, but to be Bette Davis. It’s a shame that the play—billed as a comic thriller despite being neither funny nor thrilling—isn’t a better showcase for her talents.
The show belongs to the wonderful Deirdre O'Connell, playing the central role of Margaret that was originally announced for Holly Hunter. O'Connell, so poignant as a no-nonsense foreign-aid worker in Lisa Kron's In the Wake, seems to specialize in women who are barely holding things together. There's nothing flashy about the performance, which is what makes it so moving.
"It's funny how disasters really do bring out the best in people," said A Christmas Story's lead producer Gerald Goehring. "Being in the arts, I think we're even more sensitive to that. Two days ago, when we contacted all the cast and crew, when I personally heard their voices, talked to them, and they asked me what to do and what's going on, there was a big sigh of relief. I think we're just happy to be seeing each other again."
Composer Dave Malloy has created one of the most dramatically intriguing and musically daring pieces of theater you'll see this season. Part of the trio of writer-performers behind the 2010 show Three Pianos, a riff on Franz Schubert's Winterreise song cycle that also featured free alcohol (is there a pattern here?), Malloy has already demonstrated that he knows how to create a score that's varied and dynamic, recalling well-known styles while staying contemporary and cohesive.
There’s a way to take explicit viciousness and blind hatred and turn them into hilarious comic farce—see, for instance, any number of Christopher Durang plays—but here, it’s more cringe-worthy than enlightening or uncomfortable in a telling way.
Like a lot of the battle-of-the-sexes comedies from this period, Love Goes to Press isn't really all that concerned with the women's careers. It focuses more on their love lives—specifically Annabelle's tempestuous relationship with an egotistical reporter (clearly based, although Gellhorn would later deny it, on her real-life marriage to Ernest Hemingway) and Jane's love for a British military man (who resembles Cowles' husband, an officer in the Royal Air Force).
It’s an unusual piece, a blend of character sketches and monologues and performance art, written and performed by Patricia Buckley. She opens the show as Minnie, a young woman suffering from an unspecified illness, who, after trying dozens of pharmaceutical solutions, is having a breakdown.
The play charms at first, especially since the early scenes are directed at a rapid clip by Sam Gold and played with casual sarcasm by Cameron Scoggins and Phoebe Strole. But the exhausting pace can’t last the whole evening—it’d be like watching a flip-book for 90 minutes—and once The Big Meal slows down, it loses its distinctiveness.
The Maids, which Genet loosely based on a real-life murder case, is a challenging piece. Rather than recount the details of the case, Genet imagines the heightened emotions that might lead two young women to commit such a heinous crime. Without a strong enough point of view from a director, the 1947 play can come across as overexcited or, as is the case here, tedious.
From the playwright behind Sundance hit 'Bachelorette,' a new and biting tale of assistants to an evil, unseen boss
We've already seen plenty of stories about horrible bosses (Horrible Bosses, for instance) but Assistance manages to feel fresh. Perhaps it's because while most similar stories focus on the antagonism between the big wigs and the wide-eyed peons whom they torture, here the focus remains exclusively on the interactions between the people at the very bottom of the corporate ladder. In fact, the boss—a mogul whose exact occupation is never revealed—is never seen or heard. Imagine The Devil Wears Prada if it didn't need the devil to work. Or the Prada.
The non-cynical musical based on a movie: 'Once' transfers effortlessly to stage (as it will to Broadway)
Hansard and Irglová's folk-rock ballads transfer effortlessly to the stage, and Enda Walsh has adapted John Carney's spare and effective screenplay without straying too far the source material. Walsh fleshes out a few of the minor characters, but it’s the Guy and the Girl who remain a little too lightly drawn. Hansard and Irglová's songs do all the heavy lifting—maybe not the worst thing in a musical.
Coen's first Broadway outings may have had appeal for nostalgists who miss the kind of theater that flourished in the hands of Simon, Allen, May and, to a degree, Mamet and Neil LaBute. But what "Happy Hour" shows, more than anything, is how Coen's forebears on the stage managed their divertissements while creating worlds that were entirely their own. This is something that the maker of films from The Big Lebowski to Fargo to No Country for Old Men, who built his career on the screen with an uncompromising iconoclasm, might have been expected to ace.
Scouting tail: Thomas Higgins' psychological thriller about a gay scoutmaster is little more than 'Mean Girls' in khakis
It's not long before Matthew confronts closet-case Scoutmaster Rodney (John Behlmann) during an overnight camping trip. We're supposed to be shocked at how far Matthew is willing to go to get a reaction from a man who seems only slightly older than himself. But since up to this point Rodney's earnestness about the Boy Scouts has been played mostly for laughs, their verbal sparring doesn't have the slightest bit of tension.
It’s tough to tell a fresh story about drug abuse, but playwright Dael Orlandersmith, who also plays Mira, has created a compelling piece of theater. Many of the elements are not new by themselves, but by bringing Mira and Loman together in her narrative, she can stress just how different addiction looks depending on race and class: Loman takes a limo to 125th Street to pick up his stash before returning to his tony apartment, chasing his heroin with expensive scotch, while Mira’s brother spent his last days on the floor of a filthy crack den, reduced to stealing to support his habit.