Theatre yesterday and today



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This past Broadway season that ended with the Tony Awards two weeks ago, provided me with the chance to see more shows than I have in a long time. This was due mainly to my moving back to Manhattan after many years in Los Angeles, but also because I am lucky that I make a good “plus one.”My friends who invite me to the theatre know that I’m the one that never says no to an invitation. Even if it’s a show I’m not interested in seeing, I’m still interested. I know that might not make sense, but sometimes there’s more to see than just the play. The old joke about coming out of a musical humming the scenery, is sometimes truer than you might think. For example, the Tony Award nominated set by Christopher Oram for the production of Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie, which starred Forrest Whitaker, was without doubt the best thing in the show (much as it pains me to report).

Christopher Oram's set for Hughie (2016)

I gladly took a friend up on an offer to see Al Pacino in the David Mamet play China Doll, even though it had been lambasted by the critics. What did I care? For all I know this might be the last play Pacino ever does, so why should I miss out on it? As it turned out, it could very well be the last play David Mamet ever does—boy, what a non-starter! But Pacino was worth watching. Like most great actors, even when he’s not great, he’s better than most.When an announcement for an upcoming show catches my interest, like many, I get excited by its prospective creative team or cast. Unfortunately, the early birds who catch the worm (a show in previews or out of town) will inevitably start their reporting, often resulting in spitting the worm back in our faces by way of vicious tirades over the internet. When that happens, I find myself saying, “Gee, I was going to see that, but now I’m not so sure.” With ticket prices what they are, I’ve felt as ripped off as anybody paying a lot of money to see something terrible. Ideally, that initial impulse that made me want to see something shouldn’t be destroyed by idle gossip. But there you have it.

Having a few friends in high places made it possible to see more than my fair share of both the good and the bad over the last nine months. And I would like to dispel the myth that not paying for a ticket makes a show easier to dismiss; as if psychologically I would like a play more if I paid $167 to convince myself I didn’t waste my money. I can’t imagine I would have laughed more at the Roundabout’s revival of Noises Off if I had paid for it. Genuine laughter is a hard think to fake (or make happen) as this flat-footed production felt, to me at least.

The musical Allegiance, that came and went pretty quickly last winter, was not a very good musical. Its creators were earnest in their attempt, except the show deserved a more accomplished take on its story. What happened in the Japanese interment camps is still pertinent and imminently theatrical. I had no problem with the idea of it as the basis for a musical, but I sat through it thinking of all the ways it could have been better. It was a good use of my time during those sections that clearly weren’t working and I don’t mean that facetiously. I’m not one who relishes failure. There’s always a take away in the most flawed theatrical endeavors, but only if you don’t give in to despair or boredom.

And sometimes that can be a mighty challenge. Just ask a good many of us who saw Misery. 😊

If you would like to comment on any of these posts, please do so below. I look forward to hearing from you.