Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays

Christmas Peeps

I know it's time to head to Pennsylvania for Christmas when the holiday Peeps are all laid out, I've consumed a batch of gingersnap from Michele and I'm yearning for a trip to the tropics.

But who wants to be in a sun-and-surf paradise when there's so much great theater to see in cold and icy New York. I used some downtime last week to catch up on some shows that were just about to close — the messy but wonderfully acted and directed Prayer for My Enemy and Danny Hoch's hilarious Taking Over — and some that were just opening — Gina Gionfriddo's cutting, perceptive and hilarious Becky Shaw and Shrek the Musical, a show that's funnier and more delightful than it has any right to be. (It actually did a better job of putting me in the holiday spirit than the pleasant but staid White Christmas.)

And what a revelation Daniel Breaker is as Donkey. He's charming, funny but able to rein it in when tender moments are called for and always in the moment. How nice to see an actor play two such contrasting roles in successive seasons (he was the younger version of Stew in Passing Strange last year). It's one of the joys of being able to see so much theater year after year, a blessing I am grateful for.

Since the show features a leading man in greenface, I couldn't help thinking about environmental issues. As we took our seats, my pal Annie predicted that this would be a "confetti" show — and sure enough, we left the theater brushing little circles of paper out of our hair. Aside from the practice being annoying, is it environmentally sound in these times? When folks are paying $111 a ticket, I'd hate to deprive them of the thrill of having colored tissue paper dumped on their heads if it makes them feel like they're part of the show, but if others will join forces with me, I'm prepared to do my part to get this practice stopped.

Monday, December 22, 2008

404: Not Found

Ah, what a pain it is to get an error code when you're so diligently searching for an important web page. That's why I think fantasy author Patricia Briggs deserves a shout-out for making me smile rather than scowl today when I encountered this little gem of an error message on her site:

"Alas, the page you requested,'/books/nextbooks.shtml', appears to be missing.

Since I'm sure you didn't take it, we are at an impasse. Why don't you check your spelling, and retry the link. If it still doesn't work, then obviously some gremlin has broken my web site. Please drop me a line, and I'll have my local computer nerd fix it!

Best Wishes,
Patty Briggs"

If only my tech-service queries with Dell could be half as amusing ... or even literate!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Santa Pause

Bill Coelius and Lusia Strus in The Truth About Santa.

Even when you see scores of plays each year, there are some theatrical experiences that remain embedded in memory. I'll never forget the gut-busting laughter that erupted from me as I watched Urinetown when it was still a little Off-Broadway musical at the American Theatre of Actors back in 2001. I enjoyed it as much as I had The Producers, which I'd seen just a month earlier.

As much as I laughed that evening, I sat bewildered throughout most of The Truth About Santa, a muddled, wannabe satire from one-half of the Urinetown creative team, Greg Kotis. My review.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Latter-Day Williams

Mia Kastigbak and Eduardo Machado in Out Cry.

For the second time this fall I had the chance to catch a latter-day Tennessee Williams play. Unfortunately, I found the always ambitious National Asian American Theatre Company's production of the little known Out Cry just a bit messy.

I had a similar reaction to Small Craft Warnings , which I caught, but didn't review, on an evening when the house housed plenty of my former Back Stage colleagues (and aren't there a lot of former Back Stagers walking around these day, with all the recent layoffs).