Tag Archives: theater

Still Crazy After All of These Years [& Thank God!]

I will open this post with a Jedi mind trick: You will go see Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” on Broadway. Now.

wishful-drinking

I thought I knew what to expect as we (my mom insisted on joining me for this show) made our way to our seats on the first night of previews. I read the book version of “Wishful Drinking” and had a sense of the story we were about to witness played out on stage. In “Wishful Drinking” the book, Carrie Fisher talks about her family. Her friends & lovers. Her career. Her drugs. Her mental illness. Her ECT. Oh, and Star Wars.

In the show, however, Carrie Fisher the writer/actor/Princess of Alderaan, has an energy and comedic timing that the book simply cannot convey. She talks about her FAMILY, with the help of a visual aid, which feels like a set of vintage Hollywood trading cards. Everyone from Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton are a part of her collection. Her FRIENDS & LOVERS, including Paul Simon and Bryan Lourd. Her CAREER. Her DRUGS (ok, there were too many things I could have linked to on this one, so I went with the most recent). Her MENTAL ILLNESS. Her ECT. And STAR WARS. I resort to using caps when describing these things because Fisher’s life is big and bold and she lives it big(ly) and boldly. It’s also scary, joyous, painful, and funny as hell. She manages to strike a delicate balance between all of these emotions and delivers her story with warmth and a welcomed sense of nostalgia. She makes a life that sounds so outrageous to all of us also seem so accessible.

It cannot be denied that Carrie Fisher is a great writer. But it must not be forgotten that she is an equally great performer. In “Wishful Drinking” she truly is her STORY. And what a f*cking story it is. –Downtown

WD_BerkeleyRep_4
You can find “Wishful Drinking” (somewhat ironically) at Studio 54 (till January 3rd, 2010) or on the bookshelf of your local bookstore. You can also find Carrie Fisher (and her bad-ass humor) on Twitter and blogging on her website.

Disclaimer: If you go to the show, be prepared for big time audience participation. Think Blue Man Group-type participation, but with words, cursing, and a sex doll. Ok, not at all like Blue Man Group.

A Night of Queens

June 11th brought with it a windfall of invitations to some very New York events. Apparently, it was a night fit for a queen or, more accurately, queens. I had to choose between an event at the NYPL with Queen Noor of Jordan, an evening of theater seeing MARY STUART at the Broadhurst Theater or a gala benefit for amFAR hosted by a different sort of queen, “Lady Bunny.”

Despite the unique appeal of each event, I had to choose just one. I went with MARY STUART,

Harriet Walter and Janet McTeer

Harriet Walter and Janet McTeer

because I can’t pass up a good Elizabethan drama. I arrived in Times Square directly from work and was still emailing from my Blackberry. Since I had enough time to spare, I took advantage of the new lawn chairs in the middle of Broadway and finished up the last of my emails sitting on a lawn chair right in the middle of the square.

By the time MARY STUART started, my exhaustion hit and despite the intriguing story line, it was a struggle for me to stay awake at first. But then I hit a point (and a second wind) where I was swept away in the language, the rhythm, lyrical dialogue and powerhouse acting of Janet McTeer (as Mary Stuart) and Harriet Walter (as Queen Elizabeth). They truly deserve the title of theater royalty.

Earlier this theater season I saw another member of theater royalty when actor Frank Langella starred in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. Though I am a fan of Langella’s work, SEASONS didn’t stir my emotions the way MARY STUART did. SEASONS gave us a portrait of a complicated and multi-layered man, something we’re used to seeing so much in theater that now it’s a bit old and overplayed. MARY on the other hand, was fluid, intriguing and dynamic. Perhaps this is because we don’t see many women on stage represented as complicated and multi-layered, especially during the time period of MARY.

The big second act rain/rebirth scene left me feeling like I’d witnessed one of those moments in live theater that people talk about for decades; it felt like a privilege. It also perfectly illustrates what I love about live theater: it’s a moment shared intimately by the actors and the audience. It only happens once, and, though it’s played out again and again, night after night, it’s always different. The audience gasps when the mists of rain suddenly come down and I wonder if that same reaction happens nightly. I wonder if rhythms in the character’s big monologues change, if the energy is different, how the theater smells (always a combination of upholstery and women’s perfume), if someone dropped a line, changed the order, missed their mark or is so caught up in the scene, they almost forget to breathe. Such elements can rearrange the molecules of a production leaving a mark like DNA, one that can never be duplicated — it’s there and it’s gone in an instant.

But no matter which night you go and which performance you see, the words are intact, the meaning translated; the audience moved. Just like the moment the rain appears on stage (whether you are surprised or not at its appearance), I gasp when I think of the singularity of what I’ve witnessed and how it can never be completely captured in that way and on that stage again. I suppose that also holds true for any of the other events I could have attended that evening, but MARY STUART captured my spirit. And in witnessing that performance, my very molecules were rearranged.
–Downtown

Janet McTeer as Mary Stuart

Janet McTeer as Mary Stuart

An Open Letter to Broadway

Dear Broadway,

Thank you for consistently showing me, that no matter what age I am, my image will always be reflected back at me. 

-Downtown

Thirteen: The Musical

Thirteen: The Musical

reasons to be pretty

Reasons to be Pretty

Nine to Five: The Musical

Nine to Five: The Musical

God of Carnage

God of Carnage

Grey Gardens

Grey Gardens

33 Variations

33 Variations

Blithe Spirit

Blithe Spirit

Voicemail For Dummies

vm1

Here’s a quick lesson in why one should always check voicemail. My post-B’way show backstage invite was cancelled when it was thought VIP political guests were coming to the show this evening. VIP political guests didn’t errr … show. My friend called me right before the curtain to tell me she put my name on a list for a backstage visit after. I never checked my vm. Just received an email from her asking where I was. One word to describe myself comes to mind: Dumbass.
–Downtown

tour_stage_door

Dear Stephen Sondheim, Ouch!

I don’t really know what happened. I wanted to love the new musical based on the real lives of Addison and Wilson Mizner (two brothers, one was the architect responsible for Mediterranean Revival-style resort homes of Palm Beach and Boca, and the other a cardsharp, boxing manager, Broadway playwright, investor in the

A Mizner home in Boca

A Mizner home in Boca

Brown Derby and all-around con artist, respectively). The premise was interesting: the brothers each follow their own roads: Addison’s is met with what seems like a never-ending string of failures, Wilson’s with a sugarmama who bankrolled his every whim. The roles soon reverse when Addison gains his footing as an architect in south Florida (and a sugarboy), while Wilson’s wife kicks him to the curb.

The two brothers eventually reconnect when a poor, sickly Wilson shows up at healthy, wealthy Addison’s door, and they team up to build/create their own city, Boca Raton (mouth of the rat), with Addison designing and Wilson selling. Given Wilson’s history and penchant for weaving a good yarn, one can guess where this is all leading.

The score was, well, even if I don’t like a musical, chances are I’ll still leave the theater humming a tune or remembering a few words from a song. Unfortunately I only remember one word from the “big” number: gold. And, I think, appropriately enough, the song is actually titled “Gold.”

On a positive note, the costumes are quite inventive. Each member of the chorus wears something specific to the period (1918-1920’s) but printed on the cream-colored fabric are blueprints of actual Mizner homes. It’s a really cool look and a nice detail.rs_slide

But why doesn’t this musical work, exactly? That’s a question I’ve kept turning over in my mind for the past 24 hours and I think I’ve figured out the answer. The autobiographical quality of two brothers gaining and losing everything is fascinating, as is their relationship. But it’s also the story of two brothers that gain and then lose everything. People like rooting for the underdog, so once Addison succeeds, we’re done rooting for him and Wilson’s not like able enough to want to root for at all. And, once they start to lose money because of their greed, we don’t like either of them and aren’t invested or interested in them enough to care.

When you work on a musical for 30 years, like Sondheim did with this one, and I truly admire his passion and sticktuitiveness, sometimes it’s just better to stick it back in the drawer.  It’s no longer the earnest work of a 25-year-old, rather it’s the over thought, overly earnest work of a 78-year-old man. The worst part is, the failure of this production isn’t just in the writing, it’s in the directing, acting from the chorus, and perhaps even a little bit of the fault of the Public Theater. Due to the architecture of the theater space, there really aren’t any wings to the stage, so everyone is onstage at all times and they look bored. You, as the audience, are completely aware of how bored they are. It seems like every member of the chorus can’t wait to go home and go to bed. And soon enough, the audience starts to feel the same way.

– Downtown