Girls Will Be Boys and Boys Will Be Girls

Stomping around the stage like Godzilla terrorizing Tokyo, the “internationally ignored song stylist” Hedwig (Darren Criss) spends nearly two hours performing what is less a traditional musical and more an almost one-man drag/cabaret show.  An East Berliner who was seduced and abandoned by an American G.I., he finally made it to America after the botched sex change referred to in his band’s name, The Angry Inch: “My guardian angel fell asleep on the watch / Now all I got is a Barbie Doll crotch,” he sings in the show’s title song.  He is headlining what he claims is a one-night-only concert at the famous Belasco Theatre, where Brando exploded in 1946 and John Barrymore sang his swan song in 1939.  Based on the film by John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is every inch a rock ‘n’ roll musical, with its star rending his heart from his chest for all to see while he sings (or, rather, shrieks) with a manic energy that is half expert showmanship and half narcissistic insecurity. Continue reading “Girls Will Be Boys and Boys Will Be Girls”

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Can You Handle the Taste?

Calamity is brewing on the eve of country superstar Justin Spears’ (David Lind) wedding. Justin is in a prankish, gun-toting kind of mood. His bride-to-be is rightfully concerned about his whereabouts. His business partners are about to be given the shaft. Most importantly, his weed smoking, pill craving, alcoholic uncle Jim (Mark Roberts) is en route with a cooler of Dr. Pepper, three joints and an inflatable sex doll. The party starts a little too quickly for the old man and a diabetic seizure leaves Jim stranded in a fancy hotel suite. When left alone, his jubilation turns to nostalgia and morose contemplation until his solitude is interrupted by the arrival of Sharon, (Sarah Lemp), Justin’s embittered ex-financée. Continue reading “Can You Handle the Taste?”

Governing without Consent

Freelance journalist Kim (Samantha Soule) spends an evening with Carl (John Doman), the leader of a father and son ghost hunting team. Carl is a chauvinistic codger who thinks he knows everything about women and spirits. Yet unbeknownst to him, Kim is harboring a ghost: the vengeful presence of her dead mother lives inside her, manifesting whenever men get a touch too aggressive. Carl’s badgering brings the ghost to the surface and the consequences are violent. Weeks later, Kim has to decide if she can trust herself around Thomas (Bhavesh Patel), a boyfriend who, while different from the likes of Carl, still has the potential to unleash the vindictive matriarch that possesses her. Continue reading “Governing without Consent”

You May Grow Up to Be a Fish

A.R. Gurney has a knack for writing formally inventive plays that are, ultimately, rather conservative.  Love Letters, which recently had a run on Broadway, is entirely epistolary, but the story it tells—about nostalgia, about the passage of time—is affecting but conventional.  Now the Signature is reviving What I Did Last Summer, in which many of the stage directions are projected behind the actors, so as it begins we read, “Before curtain: Music: an old Bing Crosby recording such as ‘Swinging on a Star’ ” before we hear any crooning.  Props are used only when miming is inconvenient.  The fourteen-year-old Charlie (Noah Galvin) walks onstage and announces, “This is a play about me when I was fourteen.”  His mother, Grace (Carolyn McCormick), adds, “This is also a play about me,” before hesitating, “And if it isn’t, it should be.”  And Elsie (Kate McGonigle), Charlie’s put-upon sister, will later complain, “I’ll tell you one thing this play is not about.  It’s not about me.” Continue reading “You May Grow Up to Be a Fish”

Where’d You Go?

Molière’s Don Juan is an amiable little comedy, a recklessly blasphemous sendup of religious faith and other hypocrisies, with the title character (Justin Adams) abandoning all calls for decency and kindness in favor of a monomaniacal pursuit of sexual gratification.  And he really does seem sincere every time, worshipping each successive woman and then quickly abandoning her once a new one appears.  Though Don Juan is inevitably damned to hell, there is no sense of tragedy, of failed opportunities for redemption: all is jolly until it is not, and the only thing Don Juan can do is enjoy the jolliness (and ignore the sadness he reaps) for as long as possible.  Compared to his servant Sganarelle (Brad Heberlee), who engages in a great deal of pseudo-Christian hand-wringing, or indeed to any other character in the play, the short life of this libertine seems positively delightful. Continue reading “Where’d You Go?”

Poetry’s an Indulgence

“A Moscow aristocrat, by your accent,” Strelnikov (Paul Alexander Nolan) tells the doctor/poet Yurii Zhivago (Tam Mutu) in the musical bearing his name.  I suppose it’s possible pre-revolutionary Moscow aristocrats spoke in crisp BBC English, but more likely director Des McAnuff has told his actors to avoid integrating any Slavic into their performance.  It may be a small, rather obnoxious point—there is a long tradition of all Europeans speaking in British accents in American films—but it indicates a larger problem with Doctor Zhivago: for a production that ostensibly draws on a culture with an immensely rich theatrical and musical history, it looks and sounds like pretty much any other Broadway epic.  These could just as easily be leftover songs about the June Rebellion from Les Misérables or workers’ anthems from Newsies. Continue reading “Poetry’s an Indulgence”

Exchange the Bad for the Better

The Two Gentlemen of Verona has unjustly been dismissed by most scholars.  Harold Bloom, for instance, calls it “the weakest of all Shakespeare’s comedies.”  But if it doesn’t have the meat of later plays like The Merchant of Venice or All’s Well That Ends Well, it does offer humbler pleasures.  Fiasco, a company that previously mounted amiable if underwhelming productions of Cymbeline and Measure for Measure, now makes a convincing case for this text at Theatre for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center.  With the exception of a bizarre (and admittedly troubling) ending, Two Gentlemen is not cluttered with complexity, a perfect fit for Fiasco’s genial and streamlined approach. Continue reading “Exchange the Bad for the Better”