Theater Review

Yep… that's Pee-Wee

pee-wee-herman-showThe Pee Wee Herman Show Stephen Sondheim Theatre, NYC Through January 2, 2011 Try to imagine what it would be like if Pee-Wee Herman's Playhouse were converted into a stage production for Broadway and you’d probably come up with something very similar to The Pee-Wee Herman Show, currently playing at the newly re-named Stephen Sondheim Theater. It's not as dirty as the original versions of Pee-Wee that debuted in various Los Angeles venues, and not as clean as the children's television show it later became, but rather somewhere in between, but all Pee-Wee whatever way you look at it.

A Good Play Closes Early as Mediocrity Keeps Running

elling-playElling Barrymore Theatre, NYC If George and Lennie from Of Mice and Men had meet in an insane asylum and formed a relationship of more neurotic complexities with a less tragic ending, then the end result might resemble the latest, original play to close prematurely at the Barrymore Theatre, Elling. In what has been a largely dismal season for the Broadway stage, this quirky comedy proved to be a refreshing break from the boring, unfortunately if you haven't already seen it then you missed out.

Elf Offers Holiday Cheer

elf-musicalElf Hirschfeld Theatre, NYC Through January 2, 2011 I never saw the hit movie Elf starring Will Ferrell. When a musical version was announced for Broadway this holiday season, it did not pique my interest. But when my cousin from Cleveland and her husband planned a trip to New York with their four grandchildren, aged seven to eleven, that included tickets to Elf, I decided to join them. Lo and behold, I found Elf to be funny and totally charming, with just the right amount of sentiment and warmth. It has a big heart along with plenty of holiday spirit and cheer.

Yawning at Uhry

driving-miss-daisyDriving Miss Daisy Golden Theatre, NYC Through January 29, 2011 When a play starring Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones, and Boyd Gaines somehow still manages to be boring, then it seems fairly clear that the actors are not to blame; such is case with this current revival of Driving Miss Daisy. James Earl Jones gives a vibrant performance, portraying a man with an unflaggingly positive nature and an outward joy that masks the many less-happy conflicts that must be stirring beneath the surface.

Midday Ticks

noon-divide-playNoon Divide (Partage de Midi) by Paul Claudel Storm Theater and Blackfriars Repertory Theatre Noon Divide, an intense morality/passion play by French poet, dramatist, and diplomat Paul Claudel (1868-1955), is excellent serious theater. Like ancient Greek drama, it deals with what makes people tick, what drives them on, and what propels them to undo themselves. And also, like Greek drama, a great deal of the action that motivates the characters is offstage, and the audience observes how they live with (and adapt to) the actions that occur prior to the play’s start and between the acts.

Mysterious Flowers

venus-flytrap-playVenus Flytrap: a Femme Noir Mystery Written by Anthony Dodge Directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge The Active Theater, NYC Through November 14, 2010 It is New York in 1943. Most men are in uniform and women are doing many a "man's job." Thus we find "Butch" Diamond (Xanthe Elbrick), called upon to be a private dick for the deviate underclass. This is the world of Venus Flytrap. What ensues is a prime example of hilarious and inventive burlesque, parody, satire, and farce (admixed with a healthy helping of absurdism). At the same time, the play honors the noir idiom, giving the show levels of richness beyond its comedic antics. This send-up of noir goes where no man has gone before. Butch, as she calls herself, an avowed lesbian who is not really all that butch, draws her clients from the flotsam and jetsam of Manhattan. Her primary client of the evening is Tom Blackmer (Jose Luaces), a dramatically effeminate young man who shows up in uniform shortly after he is dishonorably discharged from the Marines.

An Evening of Liquored-Up Monologues

boozy_kelly

Boo(zy): An Evening of Spirits and Storytelling
Bohemian Archaeology Productions, NYC

The art of the live storytelling monologue -- comic, dramatic, or otherwise -- has a long and mostly forgotten tradition: one of Ruth Draper, Anna Russell, Robert Benchley, and long before in Vaudeville. It survives in various permutations of contemporary stand-up. The basic and unembellished version recently received a lively resuscitation with Boo(zy) at the DR2 Theater in two pre-Halloween (the "boo" of the title) performances (October 29 and 30).

Don't Bogart That Number

refer-madness-playReefer Madness, the Musical Music by Dan Studney, Lyrics by Kevin Murphy Book by Kevin Murphy & Dan Studney At the Gallery Players, NYC Through November 14, 2010 On October 7, 2001, Reefer Madness, the Musical opened its original short three-week New York run at the Variety Arts Theater. Given the date, so soon after 9/11, New York might not have been ready for "fun" theater as fires continued burning downtown. Ben Brantley in The New York Times wrote that "at least one extreme form of the ironic arts -- its flashiest and silliest incarnation, known as camp -- is ready for its last rites."

Green Bay on Broadway

lombardi-playLombardi
Circle in the Square Theatre, NYC

Anyone who remembers high school cliques will undoubtedly agree that football and theater are not a natural match. Lombardi, a play about Green Bay's legendary savior Vincent Lombardi, does nothing to reconcile these differences of taste. If you are a football fan, particularly one who roots for the Packers, then this play may reach you; if you’re not, then it probably won't.

There is no natural law forbidding a play about a famous football coach from being theatrical, but this one is so devoid of dramatic tension and conflict that for there to be any drama to partake in, it requires an audience independently invested in the outcome of games to provide their own stakes.

Silly, Silly American History

bloody-jacksonBloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson Bernard Jacobs Theatre, NYC A biography of President Andrew Jackson set to Emo music and converted into a Broadway musical may sound like a random joke one might hear on Family Guy, but Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson makes it a reality to be reckoned with. Fresh from its Off-Broadway run at The Public, this new musical offers audiences something original through its bizarre blend of subject, genre and style.