Thursday, August 30, 2007

Walmartopia

The creators of Off Broadway's Walmartopia

My interview, with the creators of Walmartopia is in the new issue of Time Out.

I'm so glad I live in a city that's Wal-Mart free — and I pray that nobody uncovers anything too distressing about Target!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pained Jane

Hathaway in Becoming Jane

I can't believe how utterly dull I found Becoming Jane, the new film starring Anne Hathaway that purports to tell of Ms. Austen's romance with a young Irishman. It's fiction based on what little facts are known about her life, but the filmmakers don't seem to understand why Austen's novels are still so popular nearly two centuries after they were written.

They're charming, witty and utterly passionate, and this film isn't any of those things. And I'm not usually that hard to please when it comes to period dramas. Put some appealing actors in frilly costumes and I'll probably be happy. But they try too hard to make Jane seem independent and spirited, and she comes across as a sullen sourpuss instead. It's filled with bad romance-novel cliches, something her books never were.

Incidentally, the film was playing in the big theater at Village East, and the Tuesday night 7:30 showing drew no more than 20 people — and there wasn't a single man in the audience. I like to think that women are usually smarter than men, but in this case the guys who stayed home to watch the Yankees–Red Sox game made the right choice.

Monday, August 27, 2007

End-of-Summer Joys

Roger Rees, Rob Campbell and Mark Blum in The Physicists

When I have more time I'll do a full wrap-up of my four-day trip to the Berkshires two weekends ago. We stayed at the lovely Willows Motel, where not only are the moring coffee and doughnuts complimentary, so are massive amounts of chocolate bars. (Diabetics, beware!)

But the sweetest part of the whole trip was seeing some wonderful theater. (How's that for a transition?) I adored Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey, Elizabeth Franz and the wonderful cast of The Autumn Garden, and I was intrigued if underwhelmed by Friedrich D├╝rrenmatt's The Physicists, featuring Roger Rees and Brenda Wehle.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Thanks for the Memories

Marian Seldes and Angela Lansbury in Deuce

I'm so glad I had a chance to catch up with Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes before Deuce bid goodbye to Broadway on Sunday. I don't know how much more theater these two grande dames have left in them -- Lansbury is 81 and Seldes turns 79 on Thursday -- but if that's their last hurrah, I think they left their fans satisfied.

So many critics focused on the play's weaknesses -- and there are quite a few. But who cares? At this stage in their careers I'm not sure audiences would have wanted these two to lose themselves in characters as much as play variations on their personas -- or at least what we perceive their personas to be. Angela can say so much with just her eyes, and the way Marian moves her long, gangly body, even when she's just shrugging, is graceful and memorable.

I believe the last line of the play, uttered by a fan of their tennis pro characters, is "Really look at them. You will never see their likes again." I know I'm a sap, but at that point I was fighting back tears. Until then, I'd been so concerned with just finding time to see the show before it closed that I hadn't really thought about what these two actresses meant to me and how far back my "history" with them goes.

I first saw Marian Seldes onstage in the Broadway production of Deathtrap. The year was 1981, and by then she'd been doing the play for three years and had never missed a performance. Since then I've seen her play a number of larger-than-life characters in Broadway and Off-Broadway shows that were deserving of her talent (Three Tall Women, The Torch-Bearers, The Play About the Baby) and not so deserving (Ivanov, 45 Seconds From Broadway). I even had the pleasure of "escorting" her to a Drama Desk cocktail party, not because we were old acquaintances but because we happened to arrive at the hotel at the same time, and she looked a bit lost, so I helped her find where the festivities were.

Angela Lansbury, on the other hand, I'd never seen onstage before, but she was such a familiar face to me from all her wonderful filmed and recorded work that it felt like I was in the presence of an old friend. I had just started going to Saturday matinees with my mother in the early '80s when she went to Hollywood to do Murder, She Wrote, a show that was much loved in the Snyder/Kern household during my teen years. (Last week my mother and I were going through some of my late grandfather's old things. He didn't save much, but we found a local TV guide from the Sunday paper with Angela Lansbury on the cover that he's kept.)

Besides the 12-year run of Murder, She Wrote, I spent a considerable chunk of the '80s listening to her on the Mame and Sweeney Todd cast albums -- not to mention watching the videotaped performance of Sweeney Tood featuring her and George Hearn.

So thanks for the memories, ladies. I hold out hope that Deuce will not be the last of them.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fallen Idol

Before most of the critics even had time to file their reviews Idol: The Musical is history. I can't say that I had much hope for a play about a bunch of Clay Aiken fanatics — and it's not a good sign when a show replaces its entire cast two weeks before opening night, which this one did — but it's so rare for anything to close on opening night these days that the news certainly took me by surprise.

Of the few reviews I saw, Michael Sommers' venom-spewing rant in the Star-Ledger is my favorite. His best line: "The pathetic little off-off-Broadway musical that opened yesterday at the 45th Street Theatre will soon perish of its own wretchedness without any help from the critics."

Me-ow! Too bad he wasn't around half a century ago to be a diaolgue writer for Bette Davis.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Kitty Care

Oscar

Love this story out of Rhode Island about Oscar the cat, who's frighteningly accurate in predicting the deaths of nursing home residents. The best line? "The cat is said to do his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses at the home, but is not generally friendly to patients."

Based on my experiences with cats they can be extremely loving and sensitive creatures, but they can also be rather demanding and withholding of affection when they don't get whatthe want. Which makes me wonder if the cat isn't sneaking into rooms and offing the residents who refuse to feed him. Give him a treat, and you get to live another day!