Archive for March, 2021

“On the Aisle with Larry” 27 March 2021

 “On the Aisle with Larry”

 

Lawrence Harbison, The Playfixer, ordinarily brings you up to date with what’s hot and what’s not in New York; but since the New York theatre is closed down for the foreseeable future, in this column Larry reports on shows you can stream on your computer or other preferred gizmo. 

I saw and loved the original production over 20 years ago off Broadway of Becky Mode’s Fully Committed but missed it’s Broadway incarnation starring Jesse Tyler Ferguson. The original actor was great (who he was, I don’t remember) and I’m sure Ferguson was wonderful, too. Now, the George Street Playhouse is streaming the play, featuring Maulik Pancholy as a man who works the reservations desk at a hot-hot-hot Manhattan restaurant, the kind of joint that’s booked (i.e., “fully committed”) weeks in advance. In addition to himself, he does the voices of hordes of desperate people who simply must have a table tonight as well as singularly unhelpful members of the restaurant’s staff.

 

Pancholy is enjoyable as he juggles all the callers. He reminded me of the order dept. clerks at Samuel French when I was there – just as frazzled. But he’s not particularly funny. This is not so much because of him, but because of the medium in which the play is presented – Zoomed dramas are OK on Zoom, but comedies fall flat for lack of a live audience. www.overture.plus/Play/WatchVideo/bb30d421-f017-49c4-a9c9-6a56a7d01142

Soon, God willing and the creek don’t rise, Zoomed theatre will be an unpleasant memory as it recedes into the distant past. To which I say, good riddance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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

 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually does strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

 

                                                                                    — Theodore Roosevelt

 

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“On the Aisle with Larry” 23 March 2021

                                                                                          “On the Aisle with Larry” 

Lawrence Harbison, the Playfixer, ordinarily brings you up to date with what’s hot and what’s not in New York; but since the New York theatre is closed down for the foreseeable future, in this column Larry reports on shows you can stream on your computer or other preferred gizmo. 

Mr. Parent by Melinda Lopez, produced by TheatreWorks Hartford, is billed as a reading but it has more of the feel of a Zoomed play, albeit with one character, a gay Boston high school teacher and actor, played with great aplomb by Maurice Emmanuel. Actually, I think Emmanuel plays himself as he tells of his teaching and life adventures, speaking with anguish about the racism he experiences almost on a daily basis. He’s sassy, funny and heartbreaking.

I highly recommend this. You can stream it at www.streamevents.io/player/patronmanager/00D37000000IycoEAC!b4541036619fafac/FBA345EF9D1D6211 Access code: FBA345EF9D1D6211

Adjust the Procedure by Jake Shore is a meeting between 4 administrators at an unnamed NYC college, zoomed because the college is shut down due to the pandemic. The play might have been more dramatic had it actually been staged but here, it’s just four talking heads who discuss various issues caused by the pandemic. The play is best when the discussion becomes heated; but overall, it’s static and not very dramatic, like most Zoomed plays. https://www.stellartickets.com/o/spin-cycle–2/events/adjust-the-procedure/occurrences/cc582b8b-9349-4147-aab3-e0ec903e0c8f

Do you know about Broadway HD? I recommend it highly. You can subscribe for less than $9/month., $100/year and is well worth it. You can watch classic plays such as the  landmark 1973 production of A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN starring Colleen Dewhurst, Jason Robards and Ed Flanders, the original production of DEATH OF A SALESMAN and the recent production of PRESENT LAUGHTER, featuring Kevin Kline’s Tony Award-winning performance as Garry Essendine, and classic musicals and recent hits such as AN AMERICAN IN PARIS and KINKY BOOTS. They have just added the Broadway musical Allegiance to their lineup. This is a musical about an unlikely subject: the forced removal after the Pearl Harbor attack and subsequent declaration of war against Japan of Japanese American citizens (Nisei) from their homes and businesses. The book, by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo (who also wrote the music and lyrics) and Lorenzo Thione is based on the true story of George Takei (he of “Star Trek” fame) and his family. Takei also acts in the show, as the elderly version of the character based on himself and his own grandfather. Although Takei is rather wooden, there are fine performances here, most notably from Telly Leung as Sammy, based on Takie as a young man, Leo Salonga as Kei, the ghost of Sammy’s sister. Kuo’s score is lovely, and Stafford Arima’s direction is just right.

 

When I saw the show on Broadway, I felt that although the story of the Nisei has oft been told, this show personalized it, and I found it quite moving. As I watch this streamed version, it had an additional poignancy as a rise in violence against Asian Americans has been very much in the news of late, caused by inflammatory, racist and untrue statements about the Coronavirus made by our incompetent former president, He Who Must Not Be Named (like Lord Voldemort).

In view of All of the Above, don’t miss Allegiance. www.broadwayhd.com.

Sir Miles Malleson was a playwright, translator of Molière and character actor, both in the West End and on film. He wrote 10 plays, 9 of which were produced in the West End and on Broadway. Unfaithfully Yours, written in 1933, lay unproduced until it was staged by the Mint Theatre by their Artistic Director, Jonathan Bank. I didn’t see their production onstage, but it’s now being streamed so I just finished watching it. It’s easy to see why this is apparently the world premiere of the play. No one would touch it in 1933 as its subject is what used to be called “free love: but is now called “polyamory.” A rather contentious writer named Stephen (a rather annoying Max von Essen) can’t write because he is full of anger at everyone. His wife of 8 years, Anne, suggests that maybe what he needs is to have an affair. The return of her friend Diana, a recent widow who has been living abroad, creates the perfect opportunity. I can imagine West End managers in 1933 thinking, “Oh, I don’t think so, Miles.” Well, Diana thinks this is a cracking good idea, and the affair begins. Predictably, it does not end well.

Although billed as a comedy, I didn’t find the play particularly funny; but, as with all Mint productions, the cast and staging, by Jonathan Bank, are first-rate. Particular good are the women, Mikaela Izquierdo as Diana and Elisabeth Gray as Anne. (Stream it at www.minttheater.org/streaming-series/?tab=yoursunfaithfully

 

“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 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually does strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” 

       — Theodore Roosevelt

 

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