Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Broadway Club!

When I'm in L.Angeles, I barely leave the house and, when I do, dogs bark at me and babies start crying. When I go to New York, I'm a different person. Dogs still bark and babies still cry but I'm generally more positive and engaged and prepared to actually do things. I go to the Met (for 7 minutes) and Moma( 12) and eat at Lebanese restaurants just because they look interesting. And I do something I barely did the entire seven years I actually lived in New York. I go to the theater. Back when Broadway was within spitting distance, my head was filled with Britpop and Hong Kong action movies. Plays, musicals and, basically, any kind of live performance were for tourists and suckers. Which, these days, is exactly what I am. And this is what I, and my fellow sheep who lined up defiantly in the aftermath of the Times Square car bomb, paid to see:

American Idiot
I'm not really a fan of any musicals that came after West Side Story. Or before. I can't say that I'm especially fond of Green Day either. So why did I go to this show? Cheap tickets! Like I said: tourist! Here's what's good: the first five minutes where they do the actual American Idiot song. It's really exciting and totally puts you in the mood for ninety minutes of Green Day songs. The mood quickly dissipates when you realize you're sitting through ninety minutes of Green Day songs. Didn't hate it but was occasionally embarrassed (during the few moments of non-sung dialogue) and frequently bored.

A Behanding In Spokane
This is what's awesome about being in New York. You can walk into a theater at two in the afternoon and watch Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Anthony Mackie and Zoe Kazan. I laughed through a lot of this play, by the guy who wrote In Bruges, but I couldn't tell you one thing about it. Okay, maybe one thing. Christopher Walken is a one-handed guy in search of his hand. That's it. Sam Rockwell is stuck with a dud monologue about gibbons. Anthony Mackie and Zoe Kazan are neither funny nor a believable couple. But when am I going to get another chance to see Christopher Walken close-up and in excellent--and cheap!-- seats? Unless I write him the role of Jindrake in the stage adaptation of Max Keeble's Big Move, probably never.

Written by David Mamet. Starring James Spader, David Allan Grier, Kerry Washington and Richard Thomas. Rich white dude accused of raping black girl begs black-and-white law firm to take his case. They wrestle with the implications. There's no real surprises here but I can't lie: when the curtain went down for the intermission, I looked at my watch and went `Wow, THAT was forty minutes?' Spader and Grier play off each other so well I would not be surprised to see them paired off in a TV show. Which I would not watch because who needs another TV show about lawyers? Not me. Their ease with the fabled Mamet pauses and profanity shone kind of an unflattering light on Richard Thomas whose timing seemed a little off. But I'll say this: James Spader no longer looks like 80s teen movie James Spader but Richard Thomas still looks like John-Boy Walton.

The Metal Children
I saw this way, way off-Broadway. Teeny, hole-in-the-wall theater. No cheap tickets. So why? Billy Crudup played a Young Adult author whose abortion-and-suicide-filled book is banned in the mid-West. He goes to a small town to defend it. Half the local population want to kill him. The other half have formed an insane cult who follow the teachings of the book. My problem with The Metal Children was that it wasn't in any way believable. Not the cult stuff. Not the suicides or the assaults. Billy Crudup plays a male YA writer who barely leaves his house, who has no social skills to speak of, who bemoans his poor sales and the lack of respect his genre receives. I don't know if you know a guy like that but I know a guy like that. And, let me tell you, there was not a moment that Billy Crudup did not look like he'd just run the LA Marathon, bounced out of a revitalizing shower and was ready to pose for a new head shot. The guy was clean shaven and he'd taken time over his hair! Implausible! This play and the, actually fantastic, new Diablo Cody script `Young Adult' lead me to believe the slightly-tragic, slightly-pathetic YA author is on the verge of becoming the new anti-hero.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
Another off-Broadway choice. I have gone through stages of being a wrestling fan. I'n not currently in one but I'm still intrigued enough by the backstage shenanigans that this play about a jobber( wrestling parlance for the fighter whose sole function is to lose) attracted my attention. Totally glad I saw it. Unknown(to me)Desmin Borges, who plays the Puerto Rican mid-carder, has to be funny and tragic and menacing and he has to wrestle and he does not fall short in any of those areas. The writer clearly knows his shit. This Chad Deity thing stayed with me long enough that I actually started watching WWE Raw on the plane home. Which is when I knew I probably wasn't ever going to go through a wrestling stage again.


Alea said...

I would love to hear more about the Lebanese restaurants if you would care to share!

cherry cheva said...

I am so jealous you saw American Idiot. Cuz Spring Awakening guy!

jonathan Bernstein said...

Alea: the one I went to was called something like Al Bustan (sp?) on E.53rd. I had some kind of fish with cracked wheat and onions. Also on the same block, I went to a decent Indian restaurant called Brick Lane.

Cherry: the only name I'm going to remember from AI is Rebecca Naomi Jones.

Alea said...

Thanks Jonathan, I found it! I might have to check it out, I'm half Lebanese!