It was the month in which I returned to Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark. My feelings haven’t changed much in the 11 months. It’s still sit-through-able in Act One and an ordeal in Act Two. We’ve applauded Reeve Carney for flying through the air with the greatest of ease; now I can applaud his alternate – Matthew James Thomas – whom I saw last Saturday afternoon. But I’d love to know the names of the people who literally pull the strings to get Spidey where he needs to go all over the theater. I scoured the fine print of the program, but couldn’t come up with a definitive answer.
And while I’m complaining, let me continue with Nice Work If You Can Get It. Joe DiPietro delivered an anything-for-a-laugh script. Exhibit A occurs in Act Two. Billie (Kelli O’Hara) is a moll who’s disguised as a servant, although Jimmy (Matthew Broderick) has already told Chief Berry that she’s his wife. So when the lawman comes in and sees Billie in her outfit, he asks Jimmy, “Hey, what’s your wife doin’ wearing a maid’s uniform?” Jimmy, clueless as ever, can’t come up with an explanation, but Billie can. “Actually, Officer,” she says, “it’s a little bedroom fantasy of my husband’s.” After Jimmy agrees, she bends him over her knee and spanks him. “Bad Jimmy!” she chides, as he gives an enthusiastic “Yes!” And wouldn’t you know that the Chief responds with, “Ah, I remember when the ex-missus used to do that to me. Good times, good times.”
No. Even today, people would be reluctant to divulge such a sexual kink to anyone. And while the show takes place in The Roaring ‘20s, people were still then much less likely to expose themselves in this way. Nice Work is filled with this kind of bad work.
I was reminded a bit of another ‘20s show – Abie’s Irish Rose – while watching Miracle on South Division Street. Some of the same mixed-marriage terrain is covered, but there’s a good deal more to treat the eyes and ears in Tom Dudzick’s play than there ever was in Anne Nichols’ warhorse. Joe Brancato knows how to give a commercial comedy an excellent production, while Peggy Cosgrave, Andrea Maulella, Rusty Ross and Liz Zazzi do their part(s) to make it shine. It’s an old-fashioned audience-pleaser, and I hope that plenty of audiences come to St. Luke’s to be pleased.
It was the month that my buddy Ira Rappaport came to town and reminded me that when he went to see preview performances of Anya and Drat! the Cat! in 1965, he was not given a full-fledged Playbill at either production. Younger readers may be surprised to hear that in the ‘60s, a theatergoer attending a preview simply received a single sheet of paper that had been folded over, with just the title page, cast list, song list and very little (if any) more. Of course, in those days, each preview was called a “low-priced” one, for a steep discount was offered. Hey, wait a minute: is that the reason that previews now cost as much as regular performances --because we’re paying for the cost of the thick Playbill?
It was the month in which I was watching a dull play – I won’t say what – that was so tedious that I started wondering how long the damn thing would last. Hey, given that theater tickets always tell you the time a show will start, why not have them state when the show will end, too? Such as The Terminator: The Musical, 8:00-10:22. Granted, a lot of people would be pulling out their ticket stubs during a lousy show, but let the punishment fit the crime.
It was the month in which I drove by a New Jersey high school that proudly flew a banner that announced it was “The Home of the Blue Devils.” Only a few days later, I passed another school that proclaimed it was “The Home of the Falcons.” Only two days went by before I encountered another that boasted it was “The Home of the Spartans.” Can’t one high school put up a banner championing its drama club?
It was the month in which I finally caught up with the 1965 film The Great Race, which, believe it or not, I had never seen. The movie, set in the ‘20s, isn’t very good, but oh, was I amused when Tony Curtis brought Natalie Wood back to his boudoir to seduce her. To get her in the perfect romantic mood, what record did he play on his phonograph? The title song from The Desert Song. Yes, times have changed …
Mike Bartlett’s Cock is very good. What happens when a lifelong gay guy with a solid relationship finds a woman with whom he can relate? As Clear Day taught us, “There’s more to us than surgeons can remove.” It’s societal pressures as well as the obvious pressure thrust on him by his boyfriend and girlfriend that make his life so miserable when it should be so happy.
Much has been made of James Macdonald’s staging, done in a small oval. New and seemingly rickety bleachers have been erected to make the whole thing claustrophobic (and like a cockfight). But the play’s so good that when it’s done on a traditional proscenium – and here’s predicting that’ll happen sooner rather than later – you’ll be drawn into it just as effectively as people who are now experiencing it at the Duke.
Got a press release for a new play called What’s Eating You? The authors were listed as “Jill Brooke with D.D. Rice.” Not Jill Brooke and D.D. Rice, mind you, but Jill Brooke with D.D. Rice. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t this make the play sound weak? This billing gives the impression that Brooke was writing a play, got stuck and needed help, which Rice provided. If they were “and” collaborators, we’d have a picture in our heads of two merry writers in a room together, each gleefully coming up with a line that made the other laugh and say, “Write that down!” But with suggests a salvage operation, and makes me far less likely to see the play. My advice, (which Brooke is free to dismiss, of course) is that Brooke swallow her pride and change the preposition to a conjunction.
The answer to last month’s brainteaser: the shows were listed in the specific order because each had a song that corresponded to a card in a playing deck. To wit: The Roar of the Greasepaint--The Smell of the Crowd (“The Joker”), Into the Woods (“It Takes Two”), Rags (“Three Sunny Rooms”), Pacific Overtures (”Four Black Dragons”), Minnie’s Boys (“Five Growing Boys”), Damn Yankees (“Six Months out of Every Year”), Camelot (“The Seven Deadly Virtues”), She Loves Me (“Tonight at Eight”), 42nd Street (“About a Quarter to Nine”), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (“Lament for Ten Men”), Merrily We Roll Along (“Bobby and Jackie and Jack”), The Who’s Tommy (“The Acid Queen”), Newsies (“The King of New York”) and Let’s Face It (“Ace in the Hole”).
That’s why the hint listed Ain’t Misbehavin’ (“Yacht Club Swing”), Evita (“She Is a Diamond,”), West Side Story (“One Hand, One Heart”) and Hair (“Colored Spade”) – to represent each of the four suits.
David Kanter was the first to get it, followed by Stuart Ira Soloway, Brigadude, Joe Miller, AnyaToes and the mother-daughter team of Laura Frankos and Rebecca Turtledove.
This month’s brainteaser: What do all these Broadway plays that were turned into films have in common: The Moon Is Blue; The Tender Trap; A Hole in the Head; Two for the Seesaw; Alfie; The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; Lovers and Other Strangers; Same Time, Next Year; Yentl; Shirley Valentine and Sabrina Fair? The order in which I’ve listed them provides a bit of a clue. You know where to find me.
— Peter Filichia