Monday, April 04, 2011

Lots of Shows

In the last few weeks, I've seen a lot of theater. It felt like the old days. Back then, I saw things three times a week. I eagerly awaited the New York Times special section on The New Season. I circled things that I didn't want to miss. At some point, I lost bandwidth. Most things I saw were bad, or average. I felt like spending more time at home. But lately, I've been out in the world again, taking it in. I'm reminded how much theater can be a conversation--how it can be the leaping off point for having conversations. Hooray for New York theater! (And TDF!)

John Leguizamo's Ghetto Klown
This is Mr. Leguizamo's fifth solo show, and I'm beginning to wonder if there's anything left to tell. He's a fantastic performer--his energy is the driving force here, his charisma--not the material, which, if you've seen his solo works before, you've already heard most of this. It's really a great show, funny, charming...I just wish it were a little deeper, a little more....everything. After two hours of great, the show ends with a mixed-up phone call bit that felt, to me, kinda lame.'s still great! Right?

The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures
The new Tony Kushner play is so fucking exciting, so much fun, and deeply moving. In (very) short, it's about a guy who calls his family around him so they can vote on his impending suicide. As with any Kushner work, it's about everything else--desire, family, betrayal, love, hope, and yes, capitalism and socialism. The second act reaches a near unintelligible cacophony of arguing, and I remember thinking that very few other plays have felt so alive on stage to me. And nobody--Nobody--does hope like Kushner. Back in January, I saw the Signature Theater's revival of Angels in America, which is maybe, despite its subject matter, one of the most hopeful works of the 20th century. But, this play, I felt, is less hopeful. I felt like the playwright is older, more weary, less sure. And that was perhaps the most devastating part of the "play." It's 4 hours, deeply sad, sometimes hilarious, full of messy characters you find hard to love. Go.

The Other Place
Laurie Metcalf stars in this new play by Sharr White at the Lucille Lortel, for the MCC Theater. I'm so glad Ms. Metcalf has been on stage so much in the last few years; she is an actress of incredible strength and transparency. What's true in this play is really the question--and, in the end, I found myself asking the question of the playwright whose decision-making I question a bit. There is a scene at the end which plays a bit too MOTW for my tastes--and feels a bit like he's trying to rescue the play from an unhappy ending, which is what is really called for here. But, the set is beautiful, the actors are great, Ms. Metcalf is extraordinary.

The Book of Mormon
It's as good as they say it is. If you're looking for a night of big laughs and beautiful, precisely-executed musical theater, then rush out. (If you can get tickets.) You can find 100 other reviews about how great it is--and it is really great, Tony's galore come June, you watch. But I will say a few other things 1) it's not half as offensive as it should be, or could be. In the end, I think the writers settled for a musical that will make tons of money and tour forever. They're smart enough to play to a Broadway audience in a Broadway house, not a midnight-in-the-village audience, know what I mean? 2) The two leads, though wonderful alone, are missing something in their scenes together...their duo-chemistry is a bit deflated. 3) You can only do a musical about the Mormons because punchlines about them aren't in bad taste because they haven't been persecuted throughout history. You can't do "The Torah" or "The Koran" and say how insane all the mythology is, you'd be thrown out of town for racism and anti-semitism. It helps that Mormons are (generally) white, too. But...ultimately, I think the writers all know this, and they've made a big, hilarious, sometimes-moving--and here's the important part--new and original--musical.

No comments: