Saturday, November 26, 2011

Class Is In Session

An acting class is currently being given at the Golden Theatre, but it's in the guise of a play about writing and writers. That play is Theresa Rebeck's Seminar.

In the funny but slight play, Alan Rickman--best known for playing another professor--stars as Leonard, an author who has chosen four students to be a part of his writing seminar. Rickman should teach a master class in pausing--every pause has so much weight. Though Rickman is the main draw, this is very much an ensemble piece. It's hard to believe that Hamish Linklater is making his Broadway debut as the awkward Martin, but even without the floppy hair he sported in his recent off-Broadway roles, he still proves to be one of the finest actors of his generation. Jerry O'Connell as the privileged but well-meaning Douglas and Hettiene Park as the sexy Izzy also make assured Broadway debuts. I was one of the few not enraptured by Lily Rabe's Portia, but she won me over as Kate, somehow taking a self-pitying character and making her (at least somewhat) likable.

Anybody who has spent time with writers will recognize some of the pretentious conversations in the play, and Rebeck's dialogue is consistently amusing. However, the actions of the characters don't always feel earned. Fortunately for Rebeck, she has director Sam Gold, making his Broadway debut, at the helm. Gold's production is so smooth and the acting is so strong that it's easy to overlook some of the inconsistencies.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Getting Married Today

At the Minetta Lane Theare, you can experience the joy of weddings in 10 minute increments and you don't have to worry about buying a gift or getting stuck at a bad table. Standing On Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays features a rotating cast of six performing nine short plays about gay marriage by well-known playwrights. The staged reading format worked for Love, Loss, and What I Wore and Standing on Ceremony should also be able to run for years.*

Harriet Harris, Craig Bierko, Mark Consuelos, Polly Draper, Beth Leavel, and Richard Thomas are all able to create convincing characters in these short snapshots. Most of the plays are comedic and the funniest is Paul Rudnick's My Husband, in which Harris plays an overbearing Jewish mother who just wants her son (Mark Consuelos) to get married already (I'm sure most singles, gay or straight, can relate). Another highlight is Neil LaBute's Strange Fruit featuring Consuelos and Bierko, which starts off with some raunchy humor and ends with a horrifying twist. The most moving is Moises Kaufman's "London Mosquitos" about a man (Thomas) giving a eulogy for his partner.

The only problem with a show like this is that it feels one-sided (a few of the plays feature crazy conservatives) and preaching to the choir. The people who are going to see it already support gay marriage, when the goal is presumably not just to entertain, but to inform. But the shows might help educate the public through other methods as a portion of all ticket sales go to Freedom to Marry and other organizations promoting marriage equality.

Standing on Ceremony is hosting a contest on their Facebook page to win tickets for a party of 20 which includes a free drink.

*The producers announced on November 29 that Standing On Ceremony will close on December 18.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

You're Safe and Sound Now Back In Good Old 1955

Who hasn't watched an old television show or movie and thought how much simpler life would be in those times? For the characters in Jordan Harrison's Maple and Vine at Playwrights Horizons, the appeal of living in a different time is not that life was easier, but more complicated. Not only were there no modern conveniences like Internet, cell phones, and takeout, there was also less tolerance.

Married couple Katha (Marin Ireland) and Ryu (Peter Kim) don't know how to enjoy life again after her miscarriage. Katha is so depressed that she decides to quit her job. That day, she meets a stranger in the park who looks like he walked out of the 1950s. It turns out his name is Dean (Trent Dawson) and he lives in a community that lives life as in 1955 (always the same year). This idea appeals to Katha who convinces Ryu to move there for a six-month trial period, even if it means giving up his job as a plastic surgeon to pack boxes.

Harrison could flesh out the characters further as sometimes their motivations are confusing. It turns out that Dean is gay and he chooses to be married to a woman rather than be out in his own time. Katha encourages the community to be more intolerant of them as a mixed race couple so that their experience can be more authentic. It is distancing to not understand the characters, but it is also fascinating to consider their psychology. I have often daydreamed about going back in time, and the play has given me a lot to think about.


Regular run: November 19-December 23
Tues 7, Wed-Fri at 8, Sat at 2:30 & 8, Sun at 2:30 & 7:30
Additional Monday evening perfs Nov 21, Dec 5, and Dec 19

Order by November 30 and use the code VINEGR
$40 (reg. $70) for all performances Nov. 19-27
$50 (reg. $70) for all other performances Nov. 29-Dec. 23

Click here to order online or call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 Noon to 8PM daily
In Person: Ticket Central Box Office, 416 W. 42nd Street between 9th & 10th Avenues

Monday, November 21, 2011

Contest: Win Tickets to Silence! The Musical

Update: The contest is now closed. Thank you to everybody who entered. The winner was picked at random from all the entries. Congratulations stagemaven!

Silence! The Musical--The Unauthorized Parody of The Silence of The Lambs opened this summer at Theatre 80 to positive reviews. It is now playing an open run at The 9th Space Theatre at Performance Space 122 and I have a pair of tickets to give away.

To be entered to win a pair of tickets, tell me in the comments what movie you'd like to see get the musical spoof treatment. For an extra entry, tweet about the contest or retweet one of my tweets about it (only one tweet or retweet will count for an extra entry). The winner will be chosen at random on Monday, December 5 at noon. Please include your e-mail address or Twitter handle in the comments so I have a way to contact you if you win. Good luck!

SPECIAL OFFER: $39 (reg $59)
1- CLICK HERE or visit and enter code HHCGEN39. Please select the REGULAR SEATS (FBI HEADQUARTERS) section on the online seating chart.

2- Call 212-352-3101 and mention code HHCGEN39.

3- Bring a print out of this offer to The 9th Space Theatre at P.S. 122, 150 First Avenue. Box office is open for walk-up sales. See hours below.

RESTRICTIONS: Offer valid through December 30th. Offer may be revoked at anytime and is subject to availability. Not valid on prior purchase. Offer cannot be combined with other discounts or promotions; blackout dates and restrictions may apply. Maximum of 4 tickets total with offer.
Box Office Hours:
Monday/Tuesday/Thursday 4pm to 8pm
Friday 4pm to 10:30pm
Saturday 2pm to 10:30pm
Sunday 2pm to 5pm

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sex in the Settee

Noël Coward's Private Lives gets revived on Broadway every ten years or so. I can't complain because the current Broadway revival, which opened Thursday at the Music Box Theatre, is the first opportunity I've had to see the play. But those that have seen it may wonder about the necessity of another mounting. The success of the play hinges on who is cast as the two leads. Right now, Paul Gross and Kim Cattrall are making a pretty convincing case for this revival.

Gross and Cattrall play Elyot and Amanda, a couple that have been divorced for five years. They meet again while honeymooning in neighboring rooms with balconies. (It's Noël Coward. Suspend your disbelief.) It doesn't take long to realize they still have passionate feelings for each other, so they run away to her flat in Paris. During intermission, Rob Howell's set is transformed from the exterior of a hotel to a deliciously tacky flat, complete with ducks on the walls and a giant fishbowl.

Gross and Cattrall are a sexy pair and believable as a couple who alternate between wanting to sleep together or kill each other. Fans of Cattrall in Sex in the City (confession: I am one) may see a little bit of Samantha Jones in Amanda with her progressive sexual ideas, but Cattrall is not rehashing that role. She gets at the many layers of Amanda and when the play starts, you get the sense that she could be happy with her new husband, the stuffy Victor (Simon Paisley Day). Gross, who my Canadian friend explained to me is their Tom Cruise, cuts quite the dashing figure and has comedic timing to boot. The rest of the cast, though they don't have as much to do, is strong as well, in particular Day, who manages to give Victor a little bit of an edge so he doesn't come off as a one-note stick in the mud.

As entertaining as most of the play is in these capable hands, the second act starts to drag and director Richard Eyre could have perhaps better tackled the problematic physical abuse. But then again, the play was written in 1930 and I don't think everything needs to be reworked to be made palatable for modern audiences. Still, it's hard to laugh at a couple slapping each other around.

Photo credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jerry O'Connell: The Most Adorable Man on Broadway*

Last night, I attended a blogger night of the new Theresa Rebeck play Seminar. I'll wait until the show officially opens to post my review, but I can tell you about the meet and greet with Jerry O'Connell after the show. O'Connell, known for films like Jerry Maguire and Stand By Me, is making his Broadway debut as the privileged Douglas, one of the students in Leonard's (Alan Rickman) writing seminar.

Usually at these events, there's an awkward silence until somebody is brave enough to ask the first question, but O'Connell just said (after shaking everybody's hands), "Where should I start?" and without even waiting for an answer, decided to start by talking about Alan Rickman. He spoke about just watching Rickman act. He spoke about how everyone in the cast has been so terrific and helpful and welcoming. He told us about going out with his castmates after the show and how they fight over the jukebox, though it's mostly Hamish Linklater and Lily Rabe who get into debates about the music (O'Connell said he's happy with some Britney.) He said sometimes Rickman joins them and that he always tries to pick up the check. He told us about how he's auditioned for a few Rebeck shows and they've never worked out and he really chased this part (the producer told us that since O'Connell came from LA to audition, he was the only one who didn't get coached by director Sam Gold, and he nailed the audition better than anyone). He told us how he's a New Yorker and how happy he is to be back here, taking his children on the subway. All the while, he was funny, enthusiastic, and charming. Even when the Q&A was over, he kept wondering what else he could tell us. And after he was finished speaking to us, he went out the stage door and took pictures and signed for the fans outside. He seems like a true class act. Welcome to Broadway, Mr. O'Connell. You can stay.

*Credit to @Corellianjedi2 for giving O'Connell that title.