Monday, August 16, 2010

Canned Ham

"Canned Ham" at The Art House, Provincetown, MA, August 15, 2010

Like every good actor in New York, Tom Judson has written a one-man show based on his life as an actor in New York.  He does have a good gimmick, particularly suited for this summer run in Provincetown, that he spent a number of years as a gay adult film star under the suitably butch name of Gus Mattox.

There are elements of Mr. Judson's story with a sad, but familiar note - his lover fell victim to AIDS in the mid-90s.  This becomes part of his road to porn.

The script itself, is still a work in process as Mr. Judson has published on his own blog promoting the show, Canned Ham.  Mr. Judson, remarkably handsome as you can see here, is a capable actor and a talented musician (which you can't see here).  The story provides an opportunity to demonstrate his skill one a number of instruments from the accordion to the clarinet, sometimes simultaneously.  In this, he seems to be trying just a bit too hard.  Moments described of significant pain come across occasionally glib, whether from him not wanting to make the audience too sad, or just spilling all the words out to get to the next line.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of laughs and he certainly enjoys that part the most.  This is when he is the most charming.

Credit to William Ivey Long for selecting the jockstrap and wifebeater.  Credit also to David Drake for producing this engagement.  It's excellent summer fare at the "gay national park" that is Provincetown.

Canned Ham runs Sundays and Mondays through September 6, 2010.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side

"The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side" presented by The Amoralists Theatre Company at PS 122, July 31, 2010

(photo: Larry Cobra)

Returning to the NYC stage after an earlier successful run, The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side tells a tale of a poly-amorous foursome led by an ersatz Che Guevera wannabe, Billy (James Kautz).  His housemates/lovers include Wyatt (Matthew Pilieci), Dawn (Mandy Nicole Moore) and Dear (Sarah Lemp).  Dear and Wyatt run a vegan restaurant on the street level of the building in exchange for free rent of the apartment.  Dawn was accumulated by the three others when living on the street, singing songs for tips.  She continues this as the group's only source of cash.  Billy's brother Evan (Nick Lawson) turns up for a visit, bringing an added level of chaos to the proceedings.

The story is ultimately a bit of Rent retold when their landlord/benefactor Donovan (Malcom Madera) shows up to announce he's sold the building.  They have 2 weeks to move out.  Presented in three (long) acts, playwright (and director) Derek Ahonen hedges his bets as to whether this play is a political statement, demonstrated by Billy's revolutionary and communistic tenets of equality and freedom from class structure.  Or is it a farce?  The plot includes ridiculous encounters, such as Evan's first meeting of Dear, Dawn and Wyatt as the latter three exit a shower menage a' trois naked, Wyatt fully erect.  Or is it a satire?  Billy talks at length of a revolutionary group in Mexico, in which his involvement made him an assassination target.

Since I'm not sure after an almost three-hour performance, the weakness is in the writing.

The performances are fully committed and admirable.  Mr. Kautz' addicted and alcoholic Billy is as manic and earnest as any pseudo-revolutionary I might imagine.  Mr. Pilieci's Wyatt is long on passion (as it were) but maybe just a bit short on brains.  Ms. Lemp's Dear is the coolest head among the four, trying to mother her lovers into well-meaning actions.

Mr. Ahonen's direction keeps things moving, though his own script drags the pace from time to time.  I could almost smell Al Schatz's stale LES apartment, piled up with its collected detritus and trash.

The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side closed on August 9.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

A Little Night Music (revisit)

"A Little Night Music" at the Walter Kerr Theatre, July 30, 2010

(photo: Joan Marcus)

With an impressive pair of replacements, I returned to see ALNM.  I'm so glad I did.  As much as I enjoyed the original cast (review: here), it is so nice to see how a change of actor can enhance a show.

Taking on the mantle of Madame Armfeldt from Angela Lansbury, Elaine Stritch gives a two-level performance, though perhaps unintentionally.  It reminded me a bit of when I saw the revival of "Nine" a few years ago and Eartha Kitt had taken over the role of Liliane LeFleur from Chita Rivera.  Then, Ms. Kitt as Ms. LeFleur was dreadful, BUT Ms. Kitt as "Eartha Kitt as Liliane Lefleur" was fabulous.  The effect is similar here with Ms. Stritch.  Her classic deadpan line readings don't quite deliver the sophistication one expects from Mme Armfeldt, but taking the performance as a whole, she does make a success of it.  There were a few bumpy moments along the way in "Liaisons" but only the truest fans who have the score memorized would have realized it.

Replacing Catherine Zeta Jones, Bernadette Peters as Desiree performs as though she's studied the role for years.  Her Desiree is quite a bit more world-weary than her predecessor.  She sees that not only is her beauty on the brink, so is her time to fill the rest of her life.  Ms. Peters does all this without coming across as jaded or cynical, but still hopeful that her chance exists.  At the moment when she thinks all is lost, the classic "Send In The Clowns," she sings through tears with heart-breaking emotion.  It is a masterful performance.

The rest of the cast remains strong overall. A few notes: Miss Mallory's Anne has taken on something of an odd drawl in her speech that feels a bit anachronistic at times, but her performance has grown during the run.  Miss Davie, too, has grown, finding nuance at opportune moments.

Miss Peters and Miss Stritch are on contract through November.  It will be interesting to see if the producers can come up with another pair of replacements this interesting when the time comes.