Monday, May 28, 2012

The Two Best Plays on Broadway

A scene from The Lyons
Photo credit: Carol Rosegg
A scene from Clybourne Park
Photo credit: Nathan Johnson
Last weekend, I revisited two plays I loved off-Broadway, Clybourne Park and The Lyons. There are other plays I've been recommending, such as Peter and the Starcatcher, which is a beautiful production, but for my money, in terms of writing, Clybourne Park and The Lyons are the two best new plays on Broadway right now.

The Lyons by Nicky Silver seems at first to be a conventional family drama. Ben Lyons (Dick Latessa) is dying and he and his wife, Rita (Linda Lavins) have invited his children, Lisa (Kate Jennings Grant) and Curtis (Michael Esper), to the hospital to say their goodbyes. That may not sound liked the stuff of comedy, but Silver gives Rita plenty of zingers, but they don't feel gratuitous because they are in keeping with her character.

Act two focuses on Curtis and I don't want to give anything away, but it goes in a different, unexpected, and completely thrilling direction.

The Lyons aren't very likable people, but they're fully formed and complicated. It's easy to relate to them--their sadness, their loneliness, their selfishness.

In Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, fifty years divide the first and second act. Act one takes place in 1959 in Clybourne Park, a white neighborhood in Chicago. Bev (Christina Kirk) and Russ (Frank Wood) are packing up to move after a tragedy with their son. Karl Lindner (Jeremy Shamos) and his deaf wife Betsy (Annie Parisse) come over, concerned that Bev and Russ have sold their home to a black family (the family, never seen in the play, is the one at the center of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun).

In the second act, Lindsey (Parisse) and Steve (Shamos) are moving into that same house, only now it is a predominantly black neighborhood (as Karl predicted would happen) and Kevin (Damon Gupton) and Lena (Crystal A. Dickinson) are protesting the changes they want to make to the house and to their history.

None of the characters are completely in the right or wrong. Like Silver's characters, Norris's characters feel like real people, not just vehicles for an agenda.

Both plays have the benefits of exceptional casts and direction (Mark Brokaw for The Lyons and Pam MacKinnon for Clybourne Park), but I'm pretty sure that these are two plays that could be enjoyed on the page, not just in fabulous productions. Both Norris and Silver are making their Broadway debuts as playwrights this season. Let's hope that these plays will stick around for a while and that there will be more to come from both.

Rapture, Blister, Burn

Ever since seeing Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn at Playwrights Horizons, I've been thinking a lot about what kind of woman I am, what it means to be a woman in today's society, and what men want and expect from us. That said, the play might benefit from some rewriting and focus.
Virginia Kull, Beth Dixon, and Amy Brenneman
Photo credit: Carol Rosegg
Catherine (Amy Brenneman) is a successful feminist author. She returns home to take care of her mother Alice (Beth Dixon), who recently suffered a heart attack. Catherine's ex, Don (Lee Tergesen), gets her a job at the college where he works as a dean. Don is now married to Gwen (Kellie Overbey), who studied with them, but chose to be a stay-at-home mother of two. At the start of the play, Avery (Virginia Kull, last seen in Assistance, and I wouldn't be mad if Playwrights Horizons keeps casting her in all its shows) arrives to babysit, but Gwen sends her away because she has a black eye and she doesn't want her son to think violence against women is ok. (Avery didn't get the black eye from her boyfriend, but she did get it working on the reality show they are developing.) Gwen introduces Avery to Catherine, thinking she will be a good influence, and Avery and Gwen sign up for Catherine's class.

The three meet at Alice's house and the classroom scenes are the best in the play. In the first, they discuss Phyllis Schlafly, who opposed equal rights. When they are in the middle of their discourse, I almost wanted to get up on stage and join them, I was so engaged in the conversation. But then the play goes in another direction. Catherine starts to rekindle her romance with Don, leading to somewhat absurd plot developments in act two.

In an interview with Gionfriddo on the Playwrights Horizons website, she says she started writing a play about internet porn. That subject is briefly touched upon, but I would like to see the play she would have written had she stuck to that.

Discount Tickets to Rapture, Blister, Burn for Pataphysical Science readers:
Regular run: May 18-June 24
Tues at 7, Wed-Fri at 8, Sat at 2:30 & 8, Sun at 2:30 & 7:30
Additional Monday evening performance June 11 at 7

Order by June 5 and use the code RBBLOG [note two B's]
$40 (reg. $70) for all performances May 18-27
$50 (reg. $70) for all other performances May 29-June 24

Click here to purchase online

Call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 noon to 8 p.m. daily

In person: Ticket Central Box Office, 416 W. 42nd Street between 9th & 10th Avenue

Note: The production officially opens on June 12, but I was invited to a preview and asked to post my thoughts.

Friday, May 25, 2012

My Children! My Africa!

Photo credit: Joan Marcus
Ruben Santiago-Hudson's production of Athol Fugard's My Children! My Africa! at the Signature Theatre has a lot going for it, namely three fine performances and transportive original music by Bobby McFerrin, but it can't quite overcome some of the problems in the script.

The play was originally written in 1989 and takes place in an Eastern Cape Karoo town in 1984. It begins with a debate in Mr. M's (James A. Williams) classroom between his star pupil, Thami (Stephen Tyrone Williams) and Isabel (Allie Gallerani), visiting from a nearby white school. The two students become fast friends and Mr. M decides to team them up to compete in a literary competition. But as Thami gets more and more caught up with the student boycott, he is torn between love for a teacher whose principles he disagrees with and his own beliefs that the education system is unfair.

The characters often go into too-long monologues which break up the flow of the rest of the play and significantly slow down the pacing, even when delivered by this cast. But when acting opposite each other, the performers are riveting. Stephen Tyrone Williams is particularly memorable. I saw him earlier this season in Burning and was shocked it was the same person--so convincingly was he able to portray a teenager.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Old Jews Telling Jokes May Surprise You

You probably already know if a show titled Old Jews Telling Jokes is for you. It's basically what's advertised, but also not. Here are five surprising facts about the show, conceived by Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrents and playing at the Westside Theatre:
From left: Audrey Lynn Weston, Marilyn Sokol, Lenny Wolpe, Todd Sussman, and Bill Army
Photo credit: Joan Marcus
1) Not everyone is old. Audrey Lynn Weston and Bill Army are the two youngsters in the cast.
2) One of the actors isn't Jewish, but he's very convincing (spoiler alert: it's Army).
3) They're not just telling jokes. Sometimes, they sing, perform skits, and deliver monologues.
4) Young up-and-coming composer Adam Gwon wrote the amusing title song.
5) It's actually funny. To be honest, I was afraid the jokes would be groan-inducing, but I found myself laughing out loud, largely due to the delivery by Marilyn Sokol, Weston, Army, Todd Susman, and Lenny Wolpe.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Three Finches: A Handy Chart

How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying closes on Broadway today. I'm sad to see it go. It has a lovely score, some of the best (and best looking) dancers on Broadway, and great merchandise (I'm really hoping those Nick Jonas pillows show up at the Broadway Flea Market this year). I was lucky enough to see all three actors who played J. Pierrepont Finch, so I've decided to commemorate its run with a chart comparing the three. I've placed an asterisk by the winner in each category.

Comedic Timing
Daniel Radcliffe
Not his strongest suit, but there's a pleasant quality to his voice, and the singing required of the character is not too difficult.
* The most natural, especially when he did his look-at-the-audience-and-smile.
Considering he apparently never had a dance lesson before the show, Harry Potter sure can bust a move.
* Played Finch as someone who knew what he was doing, but you still rooted for him.
* On and off the stage, Radcliffe always charms.
Darren Criss
without the help of Glee’s autotune, sometimes going out of tune.
Seemed to be trying too hard, milking every line more than necessary.
* His strongest area, possibly the best of the three, although they all mastered Rob Ashford's choreography. But I wanted to give Criss the edge in at least one category.
His weakest area, but he also had the least amount of time in the role. 
Maybe because he doesn’t seem as humble or nice in real life, he was the hardest to root for.
Nick Jonas
* When not doing his nasally Jonas Brother rock star voice, the youngest Jo Bro can sing. Don’t believe me? Check out his How To Succeed… EP.
Not as funny as Radcliffe, but made some unique choices that worked, such as whispering “Finch” while using jazz hands.
Also nailed it.
Played Finch as someone who didn’t plan each move. It kind of all fell into his lap. Since he’s the youngest, it worked for him.
Again, his youth and adorableness (is that a word?) worked in his favor.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Insert Cock (Joke) Here

I wasn't going to write this review. I was invited to an early preview of Cock at the Duke on 42nd Street followed by a talkback with the cast and director. During the talkback, they mentioned that there were still changes being made to the play (that day a reference to "cling film" became "plastic bags" to make sense to an American audience). I don't like to review shows that aren't frozen, but after speaking to some fellow bloggers, I decided that it would be ok, since it seems like the changes have been pretty minor and I wouldn't have been invited had the show not been ready to review.

But anyway, back to Cock. It's a fun title. I mean, who doesn't like an excuse to talk about Cock? But it's actually a serious and occasionally upsetting play. The play is so named because it is set up like a cockfight, with a bell ringing in between each scene change. John (Cory Michael Smith) is torn between his boyfriend M (Jason Butler Harner) and his new lover W (Amanda Quaid). The actors perform on a bare stage with no props and the lights are on the audience the whole time (James Macdonald directs, but the staging is specified in Mike Bartlett's script). It's interesting to see what resonates with certain audience members. Though the quick scene changes kept me feeling distanced from the characters (through no fault of the actors, I hasten to add), I'm still thinking about the play over a week after seeing it. The sex scene in particular stuck with me and is the main reason I would recommend this play, but not for the reasons you might think. It's between John and W, who keep their clothes on, barely touch, and circle each other (again, like a cockfight). It's the most inventive sex scene I've ever seen on stage, and the most effective.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The SMASH Reality Index Episode 15

Inspired by’s brilliant Reality Index recaps, Dave (@NineDaves, and I have teamed up to bring you our take on what’s keepin’ it real and what’s faking it each week on SMASH.

It's finally here. The season finale of SMASH. We’ve stuck by this show for 15 episodes, and this episode, “Bombshell,” is our reward. Or punishment, depending on how you look at it.

We’re still in Boston for previews, just shy of opening night. Our star Marilyn, Rebecca Duvall (Uma Thurman) has just quit the show, and now everyone is scrambling. Tom (Christian Borle) and Julia (Debra Messing) are writing one last song for the finale. Eileen (Anjelica Huston) is trying her best to be heard amongst a sea of disorganized creatives. And Derek (Jack Davenport) is spending an odd amount of time yelling for a wig. Oh, and we still need a Marilyn. Ahhh yes. The quest for the perfect Marilyn; something we thought we knew in episode 2 but apparently had to wait 13 more episodes to really find out. Would it be Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty), the girl with the experience and the pill problem, or Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee), the girl with the heart and the cheating fiancé?

SPOILER ALERT – it’s Karen Cartwright. Lame ass Karen Cartwright. The wrong choice, clearly. It’s not that Karen Cartwright isn’t talented. It’s not that she isn’t working hard. It’s just that… Ivy Lynn’s better. Ivy Lynn completely encompasses Marilyn (believe us – we saw Megan Hilty in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes this weekend – she was outstanding). Ivy Lynn deserved that role. Heck, if we saw Bombshell, we’d probably spend the whole time saying, “Why isn’t that girl in the chorus playing Marilyn? She looks perfect!” It looks like even in the make-believe theater world, an American Idol player gets top billing over a Broadway superstar. Just like when Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo came into Hair.

For what it’s worth, “Bombshell” was one of the best episodes of the season. That could be because we were treated to an episode free of any painful pop songs. As if the producers were like, “you’ve stuck with us this long – you theater people might as well pipe down have your showtunes.” We did get plenty of showtunes. A slew of returning hits (What up “Mr. and Mrs. Smith!), favorites we hadn’t seen staged yet, (“I Never Met a Wolf Who Didn’t Love to Howl”), and even a new ballad - “Don’t Forget Me.” Which is kind of strange considering the show already has 16 different ballads (“Let Me Be Your Star,” “Never Give All The Heart,” “Second Hand Baby Grand,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “History is Made at Night,” and “On Lexington and 52nd Street,” plus reprises of “Let Me Be Your Star,” “Second Hand Baby Grand,” and “Mr. And Mrs. Smith.”). Could Bombshell be the most ballad-heavy show ever?

While you’re answering that, here’s another question for you: Is Sam (Leslie Odom, Jr) actually in Bombshell? We’ve seen him rehearsing numbers with the ensemble before –but only in the rehearsal room. Has he ever put on a costume and performed with the rest of the ensemble? Is he playing someone special who doesn’t have to do that?

And is Ivy Lynn in any numbers besides the opening? Because she certainly had a ton of time on her hands to sit up in her dressing room and overdose on pills, now didn’t she? We guess we’ll have to wait and find out when SMASH returns for it’s second season in January. By then, Karen will probably be out as Marilyn, and Ivy will be back in the running, and we’ll be rolling our eyes out of our heads. Before we go, some housekeeping. Remember on Friday when Dave and I posted THE ULTIMATE SMASH BINGO GAME? Well guess what? Vulture picked it up. Totally crazy, right? A complete and utter honor – especially since the Reality Index was very much inspired from our friends over at Vulture. Bananas, we tell you.

Then a bunch of people were tuned into our stuff who haven’t been yet (Hi, by the way). Oh, and then we got to meet SMASH composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and SMASH star Megan Hilty, and give them copies of THE ULTIMATE SMASH BINGO GAME. And they totally loved it and OMFG.

But as cool as that’s been, it’s been the support we’ve received from you guys out there that’s really mattered. We just want to thank all of you for reading. We’ve had so much fun writing these this season and we really appreciate your feedback and support and healthy debates on Twitter. You guys floor us with your love, and we couldn’t be more grateful.

So yeah, we’re writing this week’s Index from beyond the grave because we’re dead.

Now let’s get to it:

Totally True
• It’s a Catch Me If You Can poster! We’re not just excited because we love the show, but because it’s the first square we were able to cross off on our bingo board.
• This fight between Tom, Derek, Julia, and Eileen feels realistic. They all have a lot at stake and picking the next Marilyn has taken ALL FUCKING SEASON.
• Eileen says it will cost half a million dollars to put the show on hold for a week.
• All the ensemble members are sitting in the lobby eavesdropping. They learned it from watching Ellis.
• Karen Cartwright thinks that Ivy Lynn is going to get the part. She’s the goddamn understudy and she still she feels like she’s not good enough. Oh Iowa.
• Karen Cartwright’s been engaged for less than 24 hours and she’s no longer referring to Dev by his first name, just as her fiancé.
• Michael Riedel of The Post calls to check in on things. Say what you will about him, but he always knows where the story is. Like a moth to the flame.
• Eileen Rand spins things to Michael Riedel that Rebecca Duvall is getting some “rest.”
• “Don’t talk to me about understudies. They don’t get rehearsed in until after previews.” Leigh Conroy knows what’s up. After all, she’s probably fired a few understudies in her life.
• Plus 100 for Tom’s outfit. Those pants and that sweater look exceptionally good on him.
• “There’s a lot of stuff she doesn’t know,” says Tom about Karen Cartwright. Like how much we don’t like her?
• The costumes don’t fit because Rebecca Duvall is “like a foot taller” than Karen Cartwright. Uma Thurman is a giant.
• “If you feel yourself panicking, ask for help,” Julia tells Karen Cartwright. “Now is the time. 
• Everyone loves you here and wants you to succeed.” Except for Ivy. Who just fucked your fiancé.
• Seconds after delivering the speech above, Julia and Tom make faces behind Karen Cartwright’s back.
• Karen Cartwright needs to make a phone call. Once again, to her “fiancé.”
• Ellis can’t believe this. He would be upset that he hadn’t snooped to find out this information beforehand.
• This:
     Julia: [hands song to Tom] “It’s good, I think.”
     Tom: [looks at Tom] “Maybe not so much, honey.”
     Julia: “Yeah, I know, it sucks.”
• Tom keeps telling Julia that they have so much time. Maybe the should call the new song “Denial.”
• “It’s a grand old theater story. Movie star goes out. The understudy goes in,” Eileen says on the phone. This is true. Just ask Sutton Foster. And Peggy Sawyer from 42nd Street.
• We still hate Ellis, but he has a point that Ivy Lynn should get the part.
• Eileen tries to dismiss Ellis by sending him on a Starbucks run for the creative team. Plus 10.
• “Everyone knows what I did,” Ellis says, referring to the fact that he put peanuts in Rebecca Duvall’s smoothie. Yeah, we called it last week.
• Eileen fires Ellis. And then throws a drink in his face. Plus a million.
• Ellis tells Eileen, “You haven’t heard the last of this.” Yeah, unfortunately, Ellis is a cockroach that • won’t be that easy to get rid of.
• We’re glad that “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” wasn’t cut from Bombshell. We like it.
• Derek is right. Karen Cartwright does look like a sack of turnips.
• Surprise! Derek is yelling again.
• Monica left Michael Swift. Because he cheated on her. And he’s an asshole.
• Frank sees Julia and Michael Swift together and assumes there’s something going on. Also, WE LOVE YOU BRIAN D’ARCY JAMES.
• Frank tells Julia he can’t even see her talking to Michael Swift. “I want to trust you, but I can’t do it,” he says. We want to hug him. PLEASE DON’T LEAVE US BRIAN D’ARCY JAMES. NOT WITHOUT SINGING TO US AGAIN.
• Ann Harada gets more than one line in this episode!
• We like watching Tom and Julia write together and we hope to see more of this next season.
• We see Karen Cartwright struggling through her quick change, which is something actors spend a fair amount of time rehearsing.
• Derek just wanted to see Karen Cartwright in her underwear.
• “Never Met a Wolf Who Didn’t Love to Howl” is one of our favorite numbers. Though we’re unsure of why it’s suddenly set in Korea at a USO show, we’re glad it made the show. And we like seeing Ivy Lynn’s flashbacks.
• Ivy Lynn has the ring. Duh.
• “Yes, Derek, we’re all under a lot of pressure, but according to equity, there are still breaks,” Linda the stage manager says. Plus 10.
• Karen Cartwright has to practice her costume change. Again. Which is weird because she was good at taking off her clothes when she was in Derek’s apartment that one time.
• “Derek, I have had it up to here with you blowing me off,” Eileen says. “Now I have $7 million in this production, and I want a conversation right now.” Eileen Rand FTW.
• Karen Cartwright is eavesdropping on the conversation between Derek and Eileen. This shall now forever be called “pulling an Ellis.”
• Remember last week when we told you Ivy Lynn was going to tell about sleeping with Dev? Told ya.
• “It’s very Joe DiMaggio of him,” Ivy Lynn says in reference to Dev’s proposal. Figures even when she’s not playing Marilyn, she’s still wrapped up in Marilyn’s world.
• “Will you stop talking about Marilyn?” says Karen. “This is me. This is my life.” Have you watched this show?
• “I thought we were finished. I was drunk. It was a mistake,” Dev says when trying to explain why he slept with Ivy Lynn. First of all, this is his second affair. Second of all, the Ross and Rachel “we were on a break” isn’t going to work for you.
• Derek undermines Eileen. “I hate collaborating. I hate it. I’m an artist and storyteller and this is my vision and no one is going to get in my way. And if you want a hit then be quiet and I will give you one and afterwards you can say thank you.” GUUUURL.
• Jerry shows up. He would want to see how Eileen is doing.
• Sam and Tom talk art. “Art is a sick compulsion. Art is an ego gone haywire,” Tom says. “Art is beautiful,” Sam responds. We’re pretty sure he’s talking about Jesus.
• Eileen is pouring a drink while talking to Jerry. She always like to have one ready.
• Tom does his own orchestrations. How very Jason Robert Brown of him.
• Tom tries to add gospel into Bombshell. Because he just saw Sam in church. And Leap of Faith. #RIP #getoffthebus
• Julia tells Tom, “This is a disaster. It’s such a good musical.” Artists like to believe their work is good no matter how bad it is.
• Julia throws up because she is pregnant with Michael Swift’s child. OR IS SHE?
• Lyle West refers to Ivy Lynn as a “gorgeous blonde” and “spectacular.” He still has a crush on her.
• All the ensemble members are gossiping about Karen Cartwright leaving. Plus 10.
• “I’ll tell you one thing, Ivy wouldn’t run,” Bobby says. Fair-weather friend, as always.
• "If we have to cancel another preview, who knows what they’re going to write about us,” Eileen says, clearly having read Michael Riedel’s Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark columns.
• Everyone says break a leg to Karen Cartwright. Because that’s what you say in the theater.
• Ivy Lynn is pouting during this number. We’ve seen that expression before. When she was in Heaven on Earth. And we know what happened there. Quick, someone get Norbert Leo Butz! And lock the doors because she’ll run out with that costume on.
• Frank’s face while watching Michael Swift sing is priceless.
• Is it just us or does it sound like “Don’t Forget Me” was written at the last minute? Which it was. But it’s still a decent song.
• Ivy Lynn takes enough pills to kill herself. She IS Marilyn! That’s called method.

Oh Hell No!
• Tom and Julia are writing final lyrics sitting in the lobby as the house is open and the audience is filing in. They shouldn’t still be writing this close to curtain anyway, but at least go backstage.
• Again, as we mentioned last week, they don’t have Playbills in Boston.
• Tom and Julia cut through the house to get backstage. That’s what stage doors are for.
• Both Karen Cartwright’s and Ivy Lynn’s phones ring and everyone assumes that they’re going to find out who is playing Marilyn. Who do they think is calling? And why on earth would they receive a phone call to find out who gets the part when the entire creative team is on the other side of the door? AND THEY’VE BEEN EAVESDROPPING ON THEM THIS WHOLE TIME.
• Why is Ellis wearing a Gryffindor tie? Minus 10 because he’d be a Slytherin.
• Derek has to look at costumes to decide who should be Marilyn. What kind of sick fetish is this?
• Derek tells Karen Cartwright she’s going on as Marilyn in front of the whole company. Wouldn’t he take her aside first?
• Karen Cartwright going on as Marilyn.
• Derek says Karen Cartwright “has proven herself.” How?
• Why does Ellis care so much about Ivy? He only cares about himself unless he can get something from someone and what can she really do for him?
• “I didn’t get Rebecca Duvall out of your way so you could ignore me yet again.” That’s right, Ellis. • • Also, REMEMBER HOW YOU WERE THE ONE WHO SUGGESTED HER IN THE FIRST PLACE?
• Ellis says that Rebecca Duvall is “a nice enough person... for a movie star.” Clearly, he didn’t actually spend time with Uma Thurman.
• Why does Ellis think that poisoning Rebecca Duvall makes him a producer?
• “I thought you needed me. That’s why I came.” Michael Swift is being so Michael Swift.
• “I’m not running away from you,” Julia tells Michael Swift. “I’m running away from myself.” BARF.
• Hey look guys, it’s Boston. And by Boston, we mean Nyack.
• Leo is acting like a 10 year old. Why does his personality change so often? Sometimes he acts like a kid and sometimes he acts like an adult. And we hate him no matter what.
• “He wouldn’t even discuss it,” Tom complains to Julia regarding Derek. Yet just before that, Tom never fought to even discuss anything with Derek.
• “The good is bigger than bad” is apparently something, according to Tom. Sounds like a trite lyric to us.
• Karen Cartwright singing “I Never Met a Wolf Who Didn’t Love to Howl” is so terrible. She is the second worst Marilyn ever. Rebecca Duvall being the first. Mira Sorvino being the third.
• Speaking of which, they retooled the show for somebody who couldn’t sing or dance, so did they go back to the original versions of all the songs when Rebecca Duvall left?
• Can we take points away again for Ellis singing at that party?
• In “I Never Met a Wolf Who Didn’t Love to Howl,” there’s a line, “Leo the lion will be roaring your name.” We wonder if Julia wrote that line thinking about her son and now we hate it.
• The ensemble finishes “I Never Met a Wolf Who Didn’t Love to Howl” and claps for themselves? No.
• Derek thinks that was beautiful? Seriously, what is happening inside Derek’s head?
• Derek basically admits to Ivy Lynn that he’s crazy and is having hallucinations of Karen Cartwright as Marilyn. Has he been taking her pills again?
• “She just has something that you don’t,” Derek tells Ivy Lynn. Like what? An American Idol runner up title?
• Who took that picture of Karen Cartwright and her friends singing “Redneck Woman” in that bar? And why is it hanging on her mirror?
• “Admittedly, that was thrilling,” Eileen says about “I Never Met a Wolf Who Didn’t Love to Howl.” What number were you watching, Eileen?
• Ivy is just sitting up in the dressing room, brushing her hair. Don’t you have somewhere to be?
• Dev says, “All this was tearing us apart.” You mean when she was in the ensemble of a workshop of a musical for what, a month? And then she went to Boston for a couple of more weeks? Or was it when you slept with RJ, you fucking dick?
• Eileen didn’t throw the drink in Jerry’s face. Minus 100.
• Karen Cartwright isn’t wearing a wig cap under her Marilyn wig.
• This is Karen Cartwright’s long-time dream. She’s not just going to leave because of her stupid boyfriend.
• Why would Lyle bring that super-expensive painting back to Boston? Where Eileen doesn’t live?
• “She’s mine now,” Derek says to Dev. Because Karen Cartwright is a property that can just be traded, obviously.
• Karen Cartwright leaves a trail of clothing items, like breadcrumbs. First of all, that would never happen. Second of all, wouldn’t someone have seen her? Like the costume designer?
• “I don’t want to do it,” Karen Cartwright says to Derek. What have we been doing all season long, Karen Cartwright, if not watching you want it?
• Actually, everything in this scene between Karen Cartwright and Derek is ringing completely false to us. For example:
    “The more you hurt the better.”
    “You don’t understand because you don’t understand love.”
     “Doesn’t matter if I don’t. You do. Marilyn did.”
• Ivy Lynn is surprised that her mom, Leigh Conroy, drove all the way from Connecticut to Boston. That’s, like, 2 hours.
• Ivy Lynn tells Leigh Conroy that she’s just in the chorus. It’s the ensemble!
• Ivy Lynn isn’t wearing a wig cap under her Marilyn wig either.
• Why does Joe DiMaggio sing “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” after Marilyn dies? He wasn’t married to her at the time of her death.
• “Whatever happens next, don’t ever doubt you’re a star. And I do understand love,” Derek says to Karen. Oy.
• Don’t forget Ivy! She’s killing herself in her dressing room. And clearly not coming to curtain call. She’s not even in costume!
• Minus 100 for no Lyle West/Ivy Lynn sex scene.

Miss anything? Are you Team Ivy or Team Karen? Or are you Team "Thank God this shit is finally over?"

Friday, May 11, 2012


For the past few months, Dave and I have been deep in the throngs of SMASH-land, breaking down every "Totally True" moment, and "Oh Hell No" action in our weekly SMASH REALITY INDEX. This has given us the keen ability to break apart a SMASH episode in our sleep; a skill that will get us very far in life, except probably not at all. 

That being said, we're going to miss this crazy hour of television during summer hiatus. So we thought it'd be fun to celebrate it on the eve of its first graduation. Just in time for the season 1 finale (airing Monday, May 14 on NBC at 10 p.m.), we bring you THE ULTIMATE SMASH BINGO GAME. Print it out, cut it out, and play along with us on Twitter, finale night (@NineDaves, @PataphysicalSci). Like most games of bingo, we're going for five in a row here (across, down, or on the diagonal) - though we're pretty sure the board will be full by the second commercial break. 


Major thanks to @k532 for designing the board for us! We love it like Sam loves Jesus! 

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The SMASH Reality Index: Episode 14

Inspired by’s brilliant Reality Index recaps, Dave (@NineDaves, and I have teamed up to bring you our take on what’s keepin’ it real and what’s faking it each week on SMASH.

If you’re an avid theatergoer, then you know that previews is where all the good shit happens. Cast changes, rewrites, new songs, different sets – and the occasional accident – it all seems to go down before the curtain “officially” comes up. No one knows this better than the folks over at Bombshell, who after one out-of-town preview performance in Boston have seen most of their show turn to complete shit.

Don’t worry – it’s nothing a good trip to church can’t fix.

It’s Episode 14, people. The last episode before the finale. “Previews.” And man is it a doozy. Come see it all unfold in the Reality Index:

Totally True
• Shirtless Dev! Plus 15
• Karen Cartwright tells Jessica about Derek and Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall. “Derek is doing it with the movie star?” Jessica asks. “Are you sure?” Plus 10 because everyone is always gossiping and plus 100 because Jessica refers to Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall as “the movie star.” As if this were Gilligan’s Island or something.
• “I’ll be there in 30 minutes,” Ivy Lynn tells Jessica on the phone. “He [Derek] won’t even notice.”  Awwwww Ivy. Poor little bitch girl.
• Dev and Ivy Lynn both agree not to tell anybody they hooked up. Which is hysterical because obviously Ivy Lynn is going to tell Sam, Tom, Bobby, Jessica, the picture of Bernadette Peters as her mom as Sally in Follies, and anyone else who’ll listen.
• Michael Swift arrives in Boston only to see Julia, Frank, and Leo outside the theater. They all have an awkward stare-off, and then Michael Swift sheepishly retreats into the theater. “Okay, am I the only one who enjoyed that?” Leo asks. No Leo. We did too. But we would have enjoyed it more if Frank had punched Michael Swift in the face. Again.
• Julia tells Tom she’s not speaking to him. Completely moronic childish behavior? Yup. Sounds like something Julia would do.
• Backstage at the Boston theater, we see posters for Mamma Mia!, Memphis, Catch Me If You Can, Les Miserables, Billy Elliot, something we don’t know that looks like Crazy For You, and American Idiot. This is seriously more television exposure Catch Me if You Can received than when it actually was open!
• Eileen to Derek, upon discovering his affair with Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall. “So you didn’t think you had enough on your hands? Ivy, Julia, Michael Swift, first preview… If this blows up in any way, I’ll strangle you.” We believe her.
• When Ivy Lynn walks into rehearsal, Jessica asks, “Hey, how are you?” in that condescending tone of voice people use when they already know the answer to that question. Plus 10.
• Also, Karen Cartwright confirms what Ivy Lynn knew would happen if she showed up late. “Nobody noticed,” she says. Cold as ice. 
• “Please don’t be nice to me,” Ivy Lynn tells Karen Cartwright. “I mean it, I’ll fall apart if you’re nice to me.” Ivy Lynn: so fragile!
• “This always happens,” Bobby tells us. “You go outta town and all hell breaks loose. I’m not even kidding.” The same thing happens to us when we take vacations. Except, you know, not at all.
• Derek refers to “History Is Made At Night” as “your favorite and mine.” We agree – we like that song very much.
• “Which one’s Ivy?” Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall asks. Plus 100K.
• “I just don’t want anyone to get hurt,” Karen Cartwright says. “Well let’s get out of show business then, Karen,” Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall replies. Aaaand scene!
• “Let Me Be Your Star” is once again playing every time Ivy Lynn looks into the mirror.
• Eileen Rand tells Tom and Julia, “I’m going to watch from the mezzanine. See you at interval.”  Yes and YES!
• The show begins with “Let Me Be Your Star.” Two lines into the song, Tom lets out a, “So far so good.” “We just started,” responds Julia.
• Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall is complaining that Michael Swift missed a cue. “Is that why we rehearsed today?” she barks. Not even at intermission and already a diva fit? Sounds about right.  
• Plus 50, BTW, for “I Want To Be A Smash” being the first number we didn’t hate Karen Cartwright in.
• Are we the only ones getting major 9 to 5 flashbacks with Megan Hilty and Marc Kudisch dancing around that office?
• Also, “I Want To Be A Smash?” Subtle reference there, Shaiman and Whittman. How much do you bet they change the name of Bombshell to SMASH by the middle of Season 2?
• Ivy Lynn tells Karen Cartwright that she was good in “I Want To Be A Smash.” And Karen Cartwright says the same thing about Ivy Lynn. And then they hug! You guys! That was hella sweet!
• Marilyn dies, and they pan to the audience where some dude is checking his Playbill to see when the show’s over, and another dude is sleeping. This is the most realistic thing that has ever happened on SMASH.
• The show ends and no one claps. Some people even leave before the bows start. 
• “First preview – something big always goes wrong,” Bobby reminds the rest of the ensemble. “Like no applause?” asks Karen Cartwright. Plus 5.
• Karen Cartwright tells Dev that she trusts him. Spoiler alert – he’s cheated on you twice with two different girls in the span of two days. And he already told you about one of them. Oh Iowa… when will you learn?
• Ivy Lynn refers to Dev as “the famous Dev,” which is obnoxious and exactly something you’d say when you’re trying to cover up your affair with him.
• “You can’t end a musical with a suicide,” says Tom. He’s right – but we’ve wanted to kill ourselves after some shows.
• Eileen suggests ending the show by giving Marilyn a reunion with her younger self, Norma Jean. Even though the idea is shot down, we don’t mind this one.
• Julia has done her research on Marilyn, even quoting the HBO film with Ashley Judd! “I saw everything,” she says. “And in everything, she dies.”
• Eileen, like most producers, has some serious delusions of grandeur. “Bombshell is going to run forever,” she boasts. “And every night that audience is going to rise to its feet in a standing ovation. Now this is a 3-performance weekend. And we’re going to need that new ending by Monday morning. And that’s all there is to it.” And then she throws drinks in everyone’s faces.
• Sam’s back! He asks Tom to come to church with him. Tom should hope he doesn’t mean Leap of Faith.
• The more we think about this, the more we realize that Leslie Odom, Jr. is basically playing the same character in Leap of Faith as he is here on SMASH.
• Nick likes Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall in Bombshell. “I think she’s pretty good,” he says. “And appealing as hell.” Yeah Nick. We get it. You’re straight.
• Catch Me If You Can’s “Butter Outta Cream” is playing in the background in the lounge. Plus 15 because once again, this is more exposure the Catch Me score has ever gotten.
• Holy smacks! That’s Marc Shaiman playing the piano at the lounge! And Scott Wittman in the audience. Woohoo!
• Anjelica Houston singing “September Song” is one of the most beautiful moments we’ve had on SMASH so far. Pure class.
• Karen Cartwright and Dev are lying in bed, facing one another, talking. “Do you remember when we met?” Dev asks. AND THEN WE BARF ALL OVER THE PLACE.
• Seriously – Dev and Karen Cartwright are the most boring, awful couple we’ve ever seen on television. Ross and Rachel they are not.
• Now that tech is over, Karen Cartwright is ready to get married! We wonder – does the “I’m in tech” excuse give a free pass to all affairs?
• We don’t like this exchange, but it seems like it’s something that would happen:
Derek: Rebecca needs my attention and I’m giving it to her. Is there any other approach?
Ivy: Is that all this is to you?
Derek: We’re opening a show. And you and I are professionals.
Ivy: Yeah, yeah we are.
Derek: That’s why we do well together
• Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall is on the phone with her shrink, complaining. “No one applauded,” she cries. “No I’m not speaking metaphorically, I’m speaking literally. I died out there. I’m alone in Boston.” HAAHAAHA.
• “There’s always someone coming up the back of you,” Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall tells Karen Cartwright. “Marilyn knew it. Nearly drove her crazy in the end.” Nearly drove Ivy Lynn crazy halfway through!  
• SOMEONE POISONED UMA THURMAN REBECCA DUVALL! And by someone, we mean Ellis, who’s the only viable suspect (though they’ll probably blame Karen Cartwright). We’d be shocked by these plot twists had they not showed them in the previews 100 times.
• We’re guessing Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall was poisoned from peanuts in her smoothie. After all, they mentioned that peanut allergy 30 times in one episode. You kind of knew it meant something.
• Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall is in the hospital, so they decide to cancel two days worth of performances. It’s like Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman all over again.
• Derek tells the cast, “No tweeting,” and it feels like he’s yelling at us.
• Everyone decides to go to church with Sam. “I could use a little faith,” Jessica says. Oh shit – they are going to Leap of Faith. #GetOffThatBuss
• Eileen says she’ll handle the New York press. Cue cameo appearance by Michael Riedel?
• Karen Cartwright throws her script on the ground so we all know that she’s stressed out.
• They don’t rehearse understudies until after previews. Plus 10!
• Christian Borle is playing the piano and we swoon.
• That whole scene between Julia and Tom was dead on. From Julia blaming Tom for Michael Swift trying to kiss her, to Tom telling Julia that he loved her and stood by her and didn’t condemn her, to Julia quitting. Ugh. So good. And although we’re obviously Team Tom on this one, we still think Julia’s behavior falls in line with her character. Pitch perfect.
• Plus, can we talk about Christian Borle’s acting in that scene? He was sooo good. THAT FACE! WE WANT TO KISS THAT FACE!
• The hotline! Plus 10!
• Ivy Lynn gets everyone to do shots. Plus 20.
• “Is it okay to be hung-over for church,” asks Jessica. Preferred, actually. 
• "I love church!” says Karen Cartwright. OF COURSE YOU DO.
• Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall decides not to come back to the show. DOES THAT MEAN HER 5 EPISODE ARC IS FINALLY OVER? YAY!!!!

Oh Hell No!
• Gossip Girl’s Josh Safran hasn’t even taken over as SMASH’s show runner yet, and already everyone is sleeping with everyone else. What are they going to do next season?
• Why do people on TV always sleep with their sheets around their waist? When we’re in bed, we snuggle under the covers like there’s no tomorrow. Aren’t they cold?
• That is not Boston. At least they could have faked a better outdoor shot.
• The Bombshell artwork is terrible. Like, Rebecca bad.
• Eileen Rand is on the phone, barking orders. “I needed those costumes yesterday.” No Eileen. You’re the producer of the show. You wouldn’t be on the phone doing this. That’s what Ellis is for.
• Karen Cartwright outright asks Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall if she’s sleeping with Derek. On the stage. Right before final dress. We don’t care how “green” she is, nobody is that dumb.
• We see that Playbill you’re holding in your hand, Tom. And we’re here to tell you that there wouldn’t be a Playbill in Boston.
• Obviously Bombshell is not sold out. Because even though the bartender has a ticket, Eileen ignores it and tells him he’ll just sit with her. Clearly there are a few open seats up in the mezz.
• Karen Cartwright is trying to get Dev on the phone minutes before curtain. It’s her first show. Surely she’d be focused on that.
• We’re assuming “I Want To Be A Smash” is the song that was cut from Heaven on Earth? How the hell did that fit into that show?
• Everything about Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall playing Marilyn as she’s dying is an “Oh Hell No.” Except for the set, which is kinda awesome.
• No one in the audience stood at the end of Bombshell. That’s bullshit because people give standing ovations for really shitty shows all the time.
• We love that Eileen thinks Bombshell will run forever. But nothing runs forever. Cats had “now and forever” in its tagline and even that closed.
• “Are you directing now Ellis?” Eileen asks. “I’m producing,” Ellis responds. “Someone has to.” AND THEN EILEEN DOESN’T SMACK THE SHIT OUT OF HIM! WTF?
• Julia just spent all this time talking to Tom about the new ending, but then she ignores him in the lobby of her hotel? Grow up. 
• Great message here, SMASH. If your boyfriend cheats on you and then tells you about it and you get into a huge fight and he disappears for a day, you should totally go back to him and apologize and say it was all your fault because you just needed some space. MINUS 100.
• How do you speak metaphorically about no one applauding you? Come on shrink, you should know better than to ask stupid questions.
• Julia asks to slow down this train. “Karen has had no time on that stage,” she says. And you, Julia, have had no time at rehearsal!
• Dev left Karen Cartwright’s engagement ring in Ivy Lynn’s room. How did he just realize that now? Wouldn’t you notice if you were missing a super expensive ring? Oh, we know. He wouldn’t. BECAUSE HE’S THE WORST PERSON EVER. Besides Ellis, which goes without saying.
• Karen is struggling because she wants Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall to be okay, but she also wants the part. “Hi, I’m Karen Cartwright. I’m from Iowa and I’m nice.” WE GET IT SMASH. KAREN’S NICE. But she also wants to be Marilyn, and any actress in her shoes would be smiling from ear to ear when the star went into the hospital. 
• When she finally starts rehearsing, Karen Cartwright sings “Let’s Be Bad” to herself. Didn’t she tell Ivy Lynn that she knew that number inside and out a few weeks ago?
• Is Julia’s clam made of gold or something? Why is Michael Swift obsessed with her?
• Uma Thurman Rebecca Duvall is coming back and Karen Cartwright is “relieved.” What a lame-o.
• Julia, Frank, and Leo come to church too. Aren’t they Jewish? She’s a lyricist and he’s a chemist. Jew. Jew.
• Minus 100 for the priest not being played by Raúl Esparza.
• Minus another 100 for the song not being “Step Into The Light.”
• Sam has been back in town for two weeks and already he’s singing lead in his church again?
• And with Karen Cartwright, no less? When did they have time to rehearse this? The girl couldn’t even get her Marilyn lines/songs down. And she rehearsed that for 6 months! Maybe she should spend less time learning these gospel numbers and more time learning the show she’s being paid to do!
• Church is over and so, apparently, are everyone’s problems. Church solves everything! Minus 10.
• “Is Rebecca Duvall going to be back?” asks Sam’s mother. HOLY EXPOSITION BATMAN!
• Julia and Tom say they’re sorry in unison. And it’s kind of a let down because we don’t really believe it.
• “I’m not as ambitious and everyone else apparently is,” says Karen Cartwright. NO SHIT. How is it that you’re just figuring this out?
• No one has any idea who put the peanut in the smoothie?!? MAYBE IT’S THE GUY WHO MADE THE SMOOTHIE!?!? #idiots
• Aaaand we’re back where we fucking started. Who’s going to be Marilyn: Karen Cartwright or Ivy Lynn? It’s like déjà vu all over again!

Miss anything? You know the deal - leave us a comment!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Live Blogging the Lucille Lortel Awards, or Off-Broadway Rocks

The evening kicks off with an awesome dance number and now here's our host Mario Cantone.

Montage of the off-Broadway season. I love a montage. It's awkward that people are only clapping for some of the shows. Why did no one clap for Completeness? I loved that show.

Remember when Mario Cantone was in Assassins? One of my favorite productions of all time.

It's Alexis Bledel and Hugh Dancy to present the first award! Hugh Dancy, I'm still upset you didn't get a Tony nomination.

Outstanding featured actress goes to Tonya Pinkins for Milk Like Sugar. She's done 5 off-Broadway shows this year.

Rose Hemingway and Tony nominee Josh Young (that's how Mario Cantone introduced him). To present outstanding feature actor. Adam Driver wins for Look Back in Anger. "I have no idea what to say."- Adam Driver

I love that these speeches are under a minute so far. Off-Broadway knows how to do award shows.

My Girl's Anna Chlumsky is here to talk about Once. Now they're showing video from the show, reminding me I need to see this on Broadway, like, yesterday. Also, Once has the best logo on Broadway. I'm a little bit obsessed.

Constantine Maroulis is presenting the award for outstanding sound design. And the winner goes to Matt Tierney and Ben Williams for The Select (The Sun Also Rises). Yes! The sound design was my favorite part of that show.

Award for outstanding scenic design goes to Lauren Helpern for 4000 Miles, reminding me I need to see this show.

Oliver Chris from One Man, Two Guvnors is here and I need to see that show too. He's talking about Queen of the Mist.

Fran Kranz and the adorable Celia Keenan-Bolger to present the award for outstanding lighting design. It goes to Natasha Katz for Once. Yeah! They also present outstanding costume design to ESosa for By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.

If there's one thing I love, it's a musical medley. The Broadway Boys singing from shows that started off-Broadway: Peter and the Starcatcher, Godspell, Rent, Avenue Q, and Rock of Ages.

The nominators saw 91 shows this season. I wonder how many I saw.

Richard Foreman is being inducted to the playwrights' sidewalk outside the Lortel Theatre. He's doing a play at the Public next year.

Victoria Bailey from TDF is here. I'm biased because I write for them, but yeah TDF!

In Memoriam.

Michelle Trachtenberg presents the service to off-Broadway award goes to the FDNY.

Once's Cristin Milioti and Steve Kazee to present the award for outstanding solo show to An Iliad. I'm a fan of Denis O'Hare's hat. And Denis O'Hare, obviously.

Condola Rashad, who was wonderful in Stick Fly this season, talks about another musical nominee, Silence. Haven't seen it, but it looks funny.

A performance from the Voca People about the history of music. To be honest, they scare me a little bit. But they do sound really good. They are also the winners of outstanding alternative theatrical experience. "They're so good they actually get away with performing in whiteface."- Mario Cantone on Voca People

Patrick Page and his wife, Paige Davis present outstanding choreography to Steven Hoggett for Once, who sadly isn't here. I love that Patrick Page has a sense of humor about Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.

Tate Donovan and Halley Feiffer present outstanding director to Sam Gold for The Big Meal. He was up against himself for Look Back in Anger. Whenever Tate Donovan speaks, all I hear is Hercules.

Clybourne Park's Jeremy Shamos (Tony nominee!!!) and Annie Parisse present outstanding revival to Classic Stage Company's The Cherry Orchard. I enjoyed that production.

Lucy Liu is here to present outstanding lead actress to Sanaa Lathan for By the Way, Meet Vera Stark. That play seems so long ago, I forgot it was this season.

By the way, you can see the complete list of nominees here.

Sarah Paulson presents outstanding lead actor. If Santino Fontana doesn't win, I'm going to cry. HE DOES WIN AND I AM SO HAPPY! His speech is lovely and funny and I wish I were recording it. Update: You can read all the speeches on I can't say enough how much that show and his performance meant to me.

Santino Fontana won and now Laura Benanti is going to sing? Is it my birthday? She's going to sing "Something Good" from The Sound of Music. She does the most hilarious dance break. She really is the perfect woman. She brings up producer Richard Frankel, who cast her in The Sound of Music. He's getting a lifetime achievement award.

Sorry about Relatively Speaking, Steve Guttenberg. He doesn't have an iPhone or a Blackberry. We could be friends. He's talking about The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World, which I loved and want to see again.

Mario Cantone is talking about being in Assassins with Michael Cerveris. Have I mentioned yet how much I loved that production? I want to go back in time and see it again.

Here we go. Outstanding musical (presented by Michael Cerveris). Once wins. Obviously. Enda Walsh has such an amazing accent.

Christian Borle and Will Chase present outstanding play to Sons of the Prophet and I die of happiness.

And that's the end. Under two hours long. And that's how you do an award show. Everyone go see an off-Broadway show.