Thursday, December 15, 2011

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

"On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" at St. James Theatre, December 15, 2012 


Why change the focus of the story from Daisy, now David (David Turner) to the psychologist Mark (Harry Connick, Jr.) 

Why hire Mr. Connick to perform on Broadway and not let him do what he does best? Did none of the producers and/or creative team see Pajama Game?  "Hernando's Hideaway" turned that show on its ear, combined with the infused chemistry playing opposite Kelli O'Hara.  We get neither here.

Why not have him accompany Melinda's (Jessie Mueller) numbers, particularly "Ev'ry Night at Seven," among several others of which could have been beefed up to accommodate him.

Why give him book scenes that really require an actor?  He's a singer, not an actor.  Even here, he's not even trying.  He might as well be texting the performance in from his dressing room.  He sings solidly, but that, too, comes across as uninspired.

Why did he stick with this show?  It's painfully obvious that he'd rather be somewhere else.  Is he working his own slowdown in hopes of closing it before his contract expires?  That would seem remarkably inconsistent from his last outing.

Why take what was a questionable property and re-write the story to a period when the concept of homosexuality was still highly controversial?  If the idea is to ignore the doctor's struggle over the fact that the woman he loves is in the body of a man, shouldn't it be in a time when that isn't such a struggle?  There's no reason why Melinda had to be David's most immediate past life. Why not hire a book writer with a stronger gay sensibility like Douglas Carter Beane or Richard Greenberg? 

Why does David literally and completely disappear in the flashback scenes, except for "You're All the World to Me?"  That number was the only one that really worked, thanks to the rare, effective bit of choreography by Joann M. Hunter.

Why is the rest of the musical staging such a series of park and barks?

Why wasn't David more adorable?  Drew Gehling's Warren came across much better.  Why was David's BFF Muriel (Sarah Stiles) so obnoxiously written and performed?

Why take such a wonderful song like "What Did I Have That I Don't Have" and reduce it to a single punchline sung by David?  Why waste the talent of Kerry O'Malley?   Why not give it to Sharone (Ms. O'Malley) as she gets more involved in Mark's apparent self-destructive actions, rather than the disrespectful nod of acknowledgement she gets from the secretary late in Act II.

Why waste the talents of Catherine Zuber on such a fashion-deficient era as the '70s?  If that's the look, Mr. Producer, save your cash.


Friday, December 09, 2011

The Cherry Orchard

"The Cherry Orchard" at Classic Stage Company, December 2, 2012

(photo: Carol Rosegg)

Classic Stage puts up The Cherry Orchard, the last production of its Chekhov Initiative, that included The Seagull, Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters in a new and very casual translation by John Christopher Jones.

Mr. Jones reportedly worked directly with the cast during rehearsals to make the vocabulary choices for their respective characters.  It had to have been great fun for the actors, but the result ends up straddling the border of anachronism and "huh?"  It was my first time seeing this play and I can't help but wonder there's something about Chekov that never makes it through translation.

Still, director Orlando Pabotoy manages to massage the tragic material into some laughs, though they range from clever to uncomfortable.  Beyond that, it still has plenty of dull moments as the dysfunctional family watches their legacy waste away.

Mr. Chekov spins a standard Russian tale of waning fortunes and prideful nobles falling on hard times. Ranevskaya (Dianne Wiest) dithers, giggles and lives in the past, covering her fear of a future of which she can't grasp control.  Lopakhin, a blustering John Tuturro, the former-peasant-made-good, presents the solution, but Ranevskaya can't bring herself to act on his advice.  Daughter Varya the cast-aside homebody, is a consistently engaging Julie Rylance. Katherine Waterston is the favorite, dewy-eyed daughter Anya.  Their uncle Gaev (Daniel Davis) also teeters on the edge of reality.  The more interesting moments come from Michael Urie's Epikhodov, who nearly needs an ER visit as the master of disaster desperately in love with servant Dunyasha (Elisabeth Waterston).  Her eyes fall (quite understandably) for Yasha, another peasant-now-servant (a very sexy Slate Holmgren), whose interest beyond pleasure is living in Ranevskaya's trail of dribbling cash.  With a couple of other archetypes tossed in, the plot is as Russian as they come.

Pacing, however, was a different issue, and it was leaden this night, pushing the few laughs farther between.

Santo Loquasto's white set creates a sepia tone for this family who lives in the past.  I will say that his gauze act curtain around the thrust stage created some difficulty for the audience to get to their seats.  Marco Piemontese continues the finely detailed work for Ms. Wiest's gowns, but phones in a bit for some of the supporting roles.

The Cherry Orchard runs through December 30.  Tickets here.