Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Winter Wrap Up

Ok, it's been entirely too long since my last post.  Though silent, I've seen the following:

  • Wit, presented by Manhattan Theatre Club at Friedman Theatre, January 17, 2012 - Cynthia Nixon takes on the role of Vivian Bearing, Phd, dying of cancer in this erudite memory play that retells her last days of suffering.  For all the heady use of language throughout the majority of the script, playwright Margaret Edson makes a puzzling turn away from the powerful use of language as her lead characters moans and wails through the last 10 minutes.  Ms. Nixon is effective, but didn't quite master the central gravitas of the role.
  • Merrily We Roll Along, presented by Encores! at New York City Center, February 10, 2012 - Sondheim's awkward child gets another revision with a lengthened run courtesy of Encores!  It's nice to see the show after knowing the score for many years.  Most of the flaws remain, though there are some quality distractionsLin-Manuel Miranda nebbishes it up nicely as Charlie and Celia Keenan-Bolger discards glamour for the drunken Mary.  Elizabeth Stanley powers in a great Sherie Renee Scott knock-off as Gussie, but Betsy Wolfe doesn't quite give her Beth the charm and vulnerability we might have enjoyed from Kelli O'Hara.
  • Carrie, presented by MCC Theatre at Lucille Lortel Theatre, February 15, 2012 - Stephen King is back on the boards and watered down with a flavor of Footloose.   In the title role, Molly Ranson sings sweetly, but gets held back by the tepid script.  Marin Mazzie as Margaret White, Carrie's mother, misses the bat-shit crazy mark needed to convey the danger of the religious fanatic. 
  • How I Learned to Drive at Second Stage Theatre, February 17, 2012 - Only Norbert Leo Butz could turn such a creep into a sympathetic character.  Elizabeth  Reaser's Li'l Bit doesn't match his skill.  Supporting cast is good.
  • The Lady From Dubuque at Signature Theatre, February 25, 2012 - The space at Signature's new facility is impressive - not a bad seat in the house.  The set is stellar.  The play, not so much, even with a pretty darn good cast.  Mr. Albee mixes themes from The Sandbox and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf  Laila Robins spews the bile and pain of her dying character.  Michael Hayden blusters and whines as the soon to be widower.  Jane Alexander is elegant in the title role - an angel of death, supported by Peter Francis James as her prancing henchman.
  • Death of a Salesman at Ethel Barrymore Theatre, February 28, 2012 - The play has proven its artistry over and over again; it comes through once more in this revival.  I liked the use of original sets and music from its 1949 debut.  The casting doesn't quite work so well.  Philip Seymour Hoffman, quite the talented actor, just doesn't have the mileage yet.  In another 20 years, he'll be stunning in the role.  Andrew Garfield's Biff flails.
  • And God Created Great Whales at Culture Project, February, 29, 2012 - Rinde Eckert is always interesting.  This setting of a man losing his memory as he completes a commission of a new opera based on Moby Dick.  Employing a series of portable, color-coded cassette recorders, he continues his work, under the watchful eye of his imagined muse (Nora Cole), who also prompts and guides his efforts.  The score, very much in the style of "contemporary opera" suffers under synthesized accompaniment.  When Mr. Eckert accompanies himself at the piano, things work much better.
  • Shatner's World at The Music Box, March 4, 2012 - Relax, it was a free ticket provided by a friend.  Mr. Shatner reflects on his life and career, both highs and lows.  It was a pleasant diversion, but as expected, didn't really reveal much.
  • Once, at Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, March 8, 2012 - I've actually seen this twice already.  I'll make a separate post later.  (Hint: I really liked it.)
  • Jesus Christ Superstar at Neil Simon Theatre, March 12, 2012 - The production arrives from Stratford Festival via San Diego.  Sir Andrew claims it's the first revival he's really liked, but apparently that applies to any revival of everything he's written.  Director Des McAnuff brings a flashy version of his go-to bi-level, scaffold-style set with an odd mix of costuming by Paul Tazewell (what was Magdalene wearing??).  He plays up Judas' obsession with Jesus, which could have made for more interesting interaction between Judas and Magdalene, had she not been so wooden.
  • Now. Here. This. at Vineyard Theatre, March 17, 2012 - With such a likeable cast, it's easy to overlook the flaws in the latest efforts from the group that created [title of show].  The budget's a little better this time, demonstrated by a slick set from Neil Patel.  Each of the foursome offers revealing stories of varying painful and/or embarrassing memories.  The overall feel remains very much "off-Broadway revue."