Wednesday, November 19, 2008


"Streamers" presented by Roundabout at Laura Pels Theatre, November 15, 2008

Set in an army barrack during 1965, three roommates, Richie (Hale Appleman), Billy (Brad Fleischer) and Carlyle (Ato Essandoh) navigate the politics of race and sex. Richie's crush on Billy is either his running joke, or one to disguise the truth of it. Carlyle, the African American with two white roommates is just trying to keep his head down and survive. Billy wants everyone to get along and act "normal."

Roger (JD Williams) shows up, fresh from basic training, looking for a fellow "brother" to connect with in the white man's army of the Vietnam era. He's a loose cannon, foretelling from where the trouble will arise.

Sgt. Rooney (John Sharian) and Sgt. Cokes (Larry Clarke) are tossed in as a tension source, but end up as little more than comic relief until the brutal events of Act II.

David Rabe's play falls victim at times to the period in which it was written, but there are some themes (though clumsily explored) that still ring true regarding class and sexual identity. Mr. Appleman gets the most to work with here and gives a fine performance. Messrs Fleischer and Essandoh are almost as good, pulling what they can from the script. Mr. Williams has flashes of brilliance, but remains inconsistent.

Scott Ellis does well to keep the pace moving and has elicited strong and moving performances from his company. Rick Sordelet should be commended for the fight choreography. It's better than much of what I've seen of late.

Neil Patel's set holds up well to the abuse of the action, complemented by Jeff Croiter's lights. Tom Broecker's costumes are appropriate, but someone should tell Sgt. Rooney that his belt is to be worn brass-on-brass, not flopping around like a curtain tassel. A true sergeant would know that, regardless of his flaws or shortcomings.

What's That Smell: The Music of Jacob Sterling

"What's That Smell: The Music of Jacob Sterling" at New World Stages, November 14, 20008

After a limited run at Atlantic Theatre's Stage 2, David Pittu's take on an off-Broadway composers has transferred to New World Stages for an open-ended run.

Mr. Pittu has managed to capture the painful essence of Jacob Sterling, an off-Broadway wannabe-but-doesn't-really-have-the-talent theatre composer who is still trying to make it to the bright lights of the Great White Way.

Set as an episode of a small-time cable show, "Composers and Lyricists Of the Theatre," (CLOT) is hosted by Leonard (Peter Bartlett effectively recreating his last role in Paul Rudnick's "The New Century" at Lincoln Center), who finds the inane and convoluted material to be one of America's undiscovered treasures.

Jacob Sterling studied at the San Palo Academy for the Study of Music (SPASM), and has been a featured artist at the Cedar Rapids Association for Musical Performance (CRAMP). The puns run rampant and the musical jokes are spot on.

A highlight of Jacob's college career was his musical stage adaptation of the film "Private Benjamin" as a vehicle for Loni Anderson. (Seems the two had a falling out when she learned he'd never inquired about getting the rights to adapt it from Goldie Hawn. He says fondly, "I can still remember my last conversation with Loni when she found out, Burt shouting in the background.")

Then there is his first New York song cycle, inspired by his mother's first visit to NYC. Everywhere they went, she kept asking, "What's that smell?" Inspiration indeed for such lyrics as "Is it cole slaw? Is it cheese? Is it just old meat?"

Directed by Mr. Pittu and Neil Pepe, the pace is fast and the jokes are rapid-fire. The result is hilarious.

Go see it!

Friday, November 07, 2008


"Mindgame" at the Soho Playhouse, November 7, 2008

I know it's still in previews, but it does officially open on Sunday, November 9.

I know it's billed as an acclaimed thriller transferring from London.

I know it has a named star (Keith Carradine) and director (Ken Russell), each with his own reputation for excellence.

The play, by Anthony Horowitz, felt like a warmed-over "Deathtrap." The pace was leaden. The British accents only visited England on occasion.

The set was excellent (Beowulf Boritt).

I left at intermission.

UPDATE: November 10, 2008

Seems Mr. Isherwood shares some of my concerns, here.