“On the Aisle with Larry”
Lawrence Harbison brings you up to date with what’s hot and what’s not in New York. This week, Larry tells you about BURN THE FLOOR, LYRIC IS WAITING, SLIPPING and SUMMER SHORTS SERIES B.
Critical opinion on BURN THE FLOOR, the new dance show at the Longacre Theatre, has been very divergent. Some have lauded the dancing, and the dancers; others have dissed it for having toured around the world for several years before coming to Broadway (in other words, without first having been vetted by New York critics), and for capitalizing on the popularity of dance shows on television such as “Dancing with the Stars,” two of whose pros are featured in Burn the Floor, anything linked to television being anathema on Broadway. As for me, what I saw on the stage of the Longacre was some of the most spectacular dancing I have ever seen on a Broadway stage.
The show, directed and choreographed by Jason Gilkison, is divided into four sections: “Inspirations,” “Things That Swing,” “The Latin Quarter,” and “Contemporary,” each incorporating a full range distinct of styles of dancing. Although there are ensemble numbers involving everybody, the dancers are paired off by country of origin for featured pas de deux. The two pros from “Dancing with the Stars” are Karina Smirnoff and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, both from the former Soviet Union, and they are incredible. All the dancers are, though. Just plain jaw-dropping.
Most of the dancing is to recorded music, but there are several numbers sung by Ricky Rojas and Rebecca Tapia, both of whom have wonderful voices.
If you love great dancing, this one’s a don’t-miss.
LYRIC IS WAITING, in Irish Rep’s basement theatre (a rental), is a short drama by Michael Puzzo about a nice enough guy who tells us about his marriage to a beautiful, passionate and dangerously crazy woman named Lyric. Much of the play is direct-address to the audience. The scenes themselves are jumbled up chronologically. We see the night the dude first met his lady love; we see him trying to save her; we see him with other babes who would have been much better for him (all played well by the charming Kelly McAndrew) and there are even scenes between Lyric and none other than Bigfoot, who looks like one of Geico’s cavemen.
This does sound rather ridiculous, I know; but Puzzo has a lot packed into his play about a man’s need to save crazy women. The performances are good. I particularly enjoyed the aforementioned Ms. McAndrew, and Lori Prince (Lyric) reminded me of several women I have known, some of whom I have dated and one or two of whom I have married. She is uncomfortably terrific.
SLIPPING, by Daniel Talbott, at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, is a gay teen angst drama about a kid named Eli who has recently moved to the midwest (squaresville) from hip San Francisco, as his dad has died and his mom, a college professor, has accepted a teaching position in Iowa. Needless to say, Eli doesn’t fit in at his new school; but in flashback scenes in San Francisco we see him not fitting in there, too. The play is bookended by scenes in a hospital room. In the last one, we realize why Eli’s there. This is one problem child.
But Eli is also very charismatic, in a Dean in “Rebel without a Cause” kinda way – particularly as played compellingly by Seth Numrich. In fact, all the actors are superb: Adam Driver as Chris, the angry, self-loathing, life-loathing boyfriend back in San Francisco; Meg Gibson as Eli’s mom and MacLeod Andrews as an Iowa boy who is more than willing to put up with loads of abuse from Eli because he has the hots for him and, in fact, just might actually love this unlovable kid. I liked Talbott’s writing, and Kirsten Kelly’s direction is terrific
Like Lyric is Waiting, Slipping is very short, very much the norm these days in plays by younger writers, who seem in general to distrust the two-act form. Why? My theory is they think it contrived; whereas a play “in one” is more real, less manipulative. Maybe, maybe not.
SUMMER SHORTS SERIES B, at 59 E. 59, is overall much better than Series A. The standout is a long-lost play by William Inge called “The Killing”, wherein a lonely man brings a guy he picked up in a bar back to his room late one night. What at first appears to be a gay pick-up play turns dark when we learn that this lonely man is terminally depressed. He doesn’t have the will to take his own life, so he asks the guy he’s brought home to do it, offering him his savings ($350) to do the deed. Will he or won’t he? If you happen to know that shortly after he wrote this play Inge committed suicide, this takes on heartbreaking poignancy, but even if not it’s a gem of a one act play, beautifully acted by Neal Huff and J.J. Kandel. As for the other plays, two are rather slight but very well-done: Carole Real’s “Don’t Say Another Word” is about a clueless guy out with his girlfriend who persists in sticking his foot deeper and deeper into his mouth (I found this amusing. A guy has to be so careful when he says anything to a woman!). Roger Hedden’s “If I Had” is about two guys who landscape rich people’s yards and the bored daughter of one of their clients, and is about a subject rarely touched on in American discourse – the fact that we are not as classless a society as we seem to think we are. Again, the actors here are mighty fine.
Keith Reddin’s “The Sin Eater” takes Sophocles’ Electra as its model, setting the myth in contemporary America. Mom has killed Dad, who’s just home from Iraq. Their daughter, who’s pissed, persuades her brother, whom she thought was dead, to kill Mom. The direction is haphazard and the acting ranges from the almost-competent to the completely amateurish. Lord, I wish the Dramatists Guild would declare an official moratorium on contemporary adaptations of ancient Greek drama!
BURN THE FLOOR. Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St.
TICKETS: www.telecharge.com. 212-239-6200.
LYRIC IS WAITING. Irish Rep, 122 W. 22nd St.
SLIPPING. Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, 224 Waverly Place.
TICKETS: www.smartix.com. 212-868-4444.
SUMMER SHORTS SERIES B. 59 E. 59th.
TICKETS: www.ticketcentral.com. 212-279-4200.
“It requires a certain largeness of spirit to give generous appreciation to large achievements. A society with a crabbed spirit and a cynical urge to discount and devalue will find that one day, when it needs to draw upon the reservoirs of excellence, the reservoirs have run dry.”
—– George F. Will