Encores! usually tries to present shows that are more or less what audiences heard during their initial runs on Broadway. It seems a shame that instead of letting us experience Sondheim's original score, we get a Merrily that's been tinkered with for 30 years. It's no surprise that the most successful production I've seen, the 2000 version at London's Donmar Warehouse, did the least tinkering.
Of course people already take drugs to give themselves energy to get through the workday (Adderall, and in the old days cocaine), or drink and take drugs at night to cut loose after a depressing day on the job. But in Rx, a new comedy at Primary Stages, the drug is specifically designed to treat a medical diagnosis of “workplace depression.”
George Bernard Shaw saw nothing ill in Richard's unsubtlety, writing that this play’s protagonist was written to indulge, not restrict, the grand gesture. (“His incongruous conventional appendages … the conscience, the fear of ghosts, all impart a spice of outrageousness which leaves nothing lacking to the fun of the entertainment, except the solemnity of those spectators who feel bound to take the affair as a profound and subtle historic study.”)
I’m with Shaw on this, and thus with Mendes and Spacey, who offer at BAM a solution to what has often been called a problem play—and has even more often been cut down to something resembling Richard’s own physical self-appraisal: “deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time … scarce half made up.”
In creating Chimera, Stein and Holum upended this vertically organized way of working, choosing instead to adhere to a more horizontal, though no less meticulous, method. First of all, as writer (Stein) and performer (Holum), they would co-direct: in a sense, simultaneously co-authoring both text and performance from their vantage points on stage and off. (At a rehearsal I attended, the quirks of this style were evident as Holum, hidden inside her blocked location underneath the set’s kitchen sink, called the stage manager over to offer some notes.) But their unorthodoxy extended far beyond their own roles.(1)
David Hyde Pierce and Rosie Perez give dimension and hilarity to Molly Smith Metzler's 'Close Up Space'
In the opening scene of Molly Smith Metzler's new play, Close Up Space, David Hyde Pierce is especially funny. As Paul, a longtime editor for a boutique literary firm, he gives his new intern Bailey a withering glance (and nobody does withering glances like Hyde Pierce) when she suggests that rather than taking pen to paper, he might work more "modernly" on a computer. You can imagine the look that made-up word elicits.
Playing a bundle of neuroses is the specialty of Marin Ireland, who played a similarly tightly wound character last year in Lisa Kron's In the Wake. But she channels her inner June Cleaver with surprising ease: Her shoulders drop, her posture straightens, and a calm expression spreads over her face. Katha doesn't quite become a Stepford wife, but only because she has chosen for herself to be the perfect housewife.
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.
Welcome to Bluebell Hill, Alan Ayckbourn's fascist regime/neighborhood, recreated for the stage in 'Neighbourhood Watch'
Yes, there’s a familiar set of references here, one that should resonate with anyone who lived through the Bush era and years of absurd “orange alerts” in New York, or who's seen The Crucible. But Ayckbourn (who wrote The Norman Conquests and dozens of other comedies) isn’t trying to be Arthur Miller. This is a comedy, and not a vicious but a gentle one at that.(1)
As unlikely as it might seem, this production marks Hurt's New York City stage debut. It's long overdue, but audiences couldn't have asked for a better introduction to his work. Hurt first played Krapp in a 1999 production in London, and by now he and the character seem indivisible. And the suitability of the actor for the role matters, as Beckett wrote the play as a monologue for the actor Patrick Magee, who died in 1982.
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.
Lip-synching Judy Garland should be a bore, but in the hands of 'N.E.A. Four' alumnus John Fleck it's profound
In part of the show Fleck lip-synchs—both the songs and the banter—a bootleg recording of Judy’s drug-inflected 1967 concert at Cocoanut Grove, the nightclub in L.A.’s Ambassador Hotel, dressed in ordinary jeans and a T-shirt, sans wig or makeup. So he is neither singing Judy, like Rufus Wainwright, nor impersonating Judy, à la Tommy Femia. But he is channeling Judy, at her messiest, with a simple gesture here and a raised eyebrow there. He’s not going for realism, and he’s not going for laughs. He’s going for depth. And somehow, Fleck finds something new to mine in this much-mined tragic figure.
A Capital anticipation list: Finite and Flammable, Maurizio Cattelan, Black Star, bowling, P.S. Eliot
Each week, Capital's editors and writers will offer a list of the events, activities, releases and personal obsessions that we are looking forward to during the next week. Here is a list of our anticipations.
If this show’s time has come, and it belatedly makes it to Broadway in a full production, The Visit could become Kander and Ebb’s swan song, their final premiere, even if it wasn’t the last show the legendary duo worked on before lyricist Ebb died in 2004. (That honor would go to The Scottsboro Boys, an ambitious show about racism that had a too-brief Broadway run last fall.)
It would be a period at the end of a very long and impressive sentence: Their career stretches back almost a half century, including nearly 20 shows, among them such classics as Cabaret and Zorba—as well as Chicago, the longest-running revival in Broadway history (15 years and counting). But it wouldn't be the right one.
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.