Billy Reviews Broadway

Then I had to rush to LAX to catch a plane to NYC.  Since I paid for all my show tickets, I can say whatever I want – I mean, I always do anyway, but now I don’t have to sugarcoat it.  First up was The Waverly Gallery with Elaine May, not a name one immediately thinks of to helm a play about a woman in the beginning stages of dementia.  To pace it just right and know when to give more and when to pull back is a master skill, and May handles it beautifully.  The play itself is somewhat episodic in nature, but the performances were indelible.  Everyone in this show was great (kudos to Joan Allen), but ultimately you’ll walk out whistling Elaine May.

One of the hot tickets in town was Stockard Channing and Hugh Dancy in Apologia.  Since this was the play’s final week, it was sold out.  But that didn’t stop me from going to the theatre anyway.  Happily, I was able to grab a single seat – although in confirming my purchase, it sounded like the guy in the box office said “One ticket for Stockard Channing as Apollonia”.  For a split second, I had visions of Stockard in leather and lace, straddling a motorcycle, and singing “When Doves Cry”.  Now THAT’S a show I’d fly out to see!  Anything short of that was going to be a disappointment.  Happily, the play is good and Stockard was her usual brilliant self.  As great as Hugh Dancy always is, I felt he was woefully underutilized – but that might be because he never took his shirt off.

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I knew going into Torch Song that Michael Urie was miscast as Arnold.  It’s not that he’s not good – he’s exceptionally talented.  But it’s not an effortless fit.  More often than not, it feels awkward and forced.  Most of the blame falls on Moisés Kaufman’s direction, which could have (and should have) masked some of the issues.  More often than not, Urie appeared to be trapped in an SNL skit filled with bad accents and schticky physicality.  People either love or hate Mercedes Ruehl as Arnold’s mother.  I thought she was fine.  Great even.  Specifically, you completely believed she was Urie’s mother because many of their mannerisms were strikingly similar.  Arnold’s on-again, off-again bisexual lover Ed was played to perfection by Ward Horton (who I previously enjoyed in a play nobody else saw), while Michael Hsu Rosen was a deliciously conniving twink Alan.  But why, oh why, did they cast someone as the son who looks twice the age he’s supposed to be?  This David looks like he stumbled in from a post-college Propecia commercial.  When Ma mistakes him for her son’s new lover, it seems completely plausible.  If anything, David looks like he could be Arnold’s sugar daddy.  Sorry, I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em.

Lifespan of a Fact stars Daniel RadcliffeBobby Cannavale, and Cherry Jones – a terrific trio, indeed.  Cherry ends up with the short end of that stick (I kept picturing Elizabeth Ashley in the role).  Cannavale plays a difficult but acclaimed writer hired to write an “essay” for a magazine.  Radcliffe is assigned the role of “proofing” the essay.  He comes up with 129 pages of notes for an essay that is only 15 pages long!  It’s a fascinating discourse on how sometimes the truth can get in the way of a good story.  Is fudging OK if it helps the narrative?  Or is a lie always a lie?  As someone who struggles with this weekly (yes, I’m talking to you, Pasadena), it definitely hit home.  The play is smart, funny, and engaging – to say nothing of topical.  Definitely my pick of the week.

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