Both couples are played by the same actors, Maria Dizzia and Greg Keller. Dizzia’s roles have more contrast, from the stunning but fragile Claire (a former movie star in high heels and designer blouses) to the disheveled but determined Annie (a bleary-eyed couch potato with ratty hair and dirty sweatpants). Keller’s roles, as nerdy and aloof Luke and wise-cracking and randy Nate, have more warmth and humor. Under Sam Buntrock’s direction, both actors are sharp and utterly believable in their portrayals—as individuals and as couples.
It’d be more difficult to describe The Lady’s Not For Burning, the 1948 play by Christopher Fry, if it weren't for an accident of timing: the theater group Parenthesis presents the farce, which is built upon the craziness that ensues when everyone in a tiny medieval village becomes convinced that Judgment Day is at hand.
Those of us who were here on 9/11 and in the weeks and months that followed have the original memory. For the rest of America, there are answers here, written down when they could still be remembered, to questions nobody thinks to ask anymore.
Parts might remind you of Michael John LaChiusa or Adam Guettel, two contemporary theater composers who also draw inspiration from classical music. Schmidt’s score doesn’t always seem right for an adaptation that maintains its other Victorian trappings, especially when it veers toward modernism.
In The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide, a longshoreman studies Latin and spends his twilight years translating Horace, and a sex worker has a Yale degree and finds clients willing to discuss the Commodification of the Fetish. They may be the only ones, but they're the ones we're watching. There are plays to be made about other longshoremen maybe, and other sex workers, but not by Kushner.
The secondary characters are also universally opinionated and outspoken, as well as being complicated, conflicted, and plagued by inner doubts.
If it was meant 25 years ago to shock people with the enormity of the epidemic and rouse them to write a check or sign up to volunteer or march in the streets, what it does today is give us a damn good play. From the first scene, when Ned encounters young men succumbing to a mysterious illness in a hospital waiting room, it’s gripping.
Wonderland is a snooze, too childish for adults and too dull for kids. The very slight twist on the story—the modern narrative frame—isn’t enough to make it feel new. And Frank Wildhorn’s music ranges from derivative to bombastic, but remains consistently banal and generic.
Toward the beginning of David Greenspan’s Go Back To Where You Are, you might think you’ve stumbled into a Terrence McNally play. The group of good-looking people milling about on the deck of a vacation house seem straight out of Lips Together, Teeth Apart or Love! Valour! Compassion!
Greenspan certainly knows his McNally (as an actor, he was impressive several seasons back in McNally’s Some Men). He takes a typical McNally set-up—a gathering of friends, all of whom are mourning lost loved ones—and almost immediately casts side any pretense of naturalism when one character says directly to the audience. “My name is Bernard. I’m one of the characters—obviously—in the play.”
In the new play The Motherfucker with the Hat, Cannavale plays Jackie, a paroled drug dealer trying to start a new life with his longtime girlfriend Veronica, and does it with conviction. In less capable hands, Jackie might seem like a weasel, or a thug, or a loser. But Cannavale finds the heart behind the tough-guy façade, and somehow manages to keep Jackie funny through his whole manic journey.
There is something central to the work that is false, a cheat. As the critic Julian Budden says about the gnarled revision of the libretto of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, “It is like one of those mathematical games where at one point the player takes away the number he first thought of.”
The game being played in Company is “why can’t Robert commit?” The central character is a symbolically 35-year-old (i.e., exactly in midlife) single man living in Manhattan about 1970. He dates various girls casually, but he spends most of his time with one or another of the married couples who all seem to welcome him as pleasant and useful third wheel.(2)
It feels almost like it's lifted from other, better musicals by the creative team of songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray) and librettist Terrence McNally (Ragtime, The Full Monty), and given the real life of Frank Abagnale Jr., upon whom the movie Catch Me If You Can was based, lifted from pretty obvious places. Starting with Chicago.
Her comic timing is impeccable, and her double-take is Carol Burnett-quality work. Her dancing is effortless, and her voice—well, we know from her breakthrough, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and The Drowsy Chaperone, that she has trumpet-like high notes; here she also gets to show off the sexy slide trombone of her lower register.
It’d be a shame if Williams' name on the marquee overshadowed the other actors in the play, though, most of whom are holdovers from the original production in Los Angeles. Two in particular stand out as truly spectacular: Arian Moayed as Musa, onetime gardener to Saddam Hussein’s sadistic son Uday, and Hrach Titizian as Uday himself.
Uday is a tough role; how sympathetic can he be to an American audience, and how funny can such a real-life monster be on stage? Titizian nails his performance with just the right mix of oily swagger and cruel calculation. Uday isn’t likable—that’s not the idea here—but he makes sense, in a way, in Titizian’s hands.
Early in the play Tomei unleashes a rapid-fire barrage of profanities lasting several minutes, and you realize that something is wrong. Tomei brings intelligence and nuance to every role, but this one calls for neither. Her character has two channels: disabling despair and uncontrolled rage. She toggles from one to the other without the slightest provocation. It’s only in moments of silence, especially just before the house lights dim, that Tomei is able to hint at the character's subtler emotions—that is, without the help of her script.