Okay. So here is my long-overdue theater update from the past few months. I realized I hadn’t posted about any shows I’ve seen since Beautiful: The Carole King Musical… and that was back in December! I’ve seen nine plays and musicals since then, and though some of them have already closed, I thought I would still share my opinions about them (especially since Tony nominations come out soon!!). I’m typing these out in the order I saw them, starting with the earliest (from back in February).

Twelfth Night, Or What You Will – Belasco Theatre – Broadway Play – Closed

I was super bummed that Stephen Fry’s understudy was in (as Fry was in England to host the BAFTAs), but still very much enjoyed this production. I had seen Twelfth Night once before in college and read the play in my Shakespeare’s Comedies class, so I was already very familiar with the story. (For those of you who might not fancy Shakespeare, the crappy film She’s the Man is based off of this play.) While Olivia is not the main character, Mark Rylance’s performance of her was side-splittingly delightful and was the definite highlight of the show. This production was extra special because all of the parts were played by men and the audience got to see all of the performers get ready on stage before the show. There was live music and period garb… it was all very old-timey and wonderful. Seeing Shakespeare’s work performed live is (for me) preferable to reading it because even if you don’t know what all the words and phrases mean, the physicality of the actors and their relationships to each other on stage helps fill in the gaps. This was a very funny show and I expect Rylance to be among the Tony nominees.

The Bridges of Madison County – Schoenfeld Theatre – Broadway Musical – Open Run

I don’t normally cry at things, but this show had me silently weeping twice (end of Act One and the middle of Act Two). I’ve read the book, but have never seen the movie (even though I own it), and have driven past signs for the actual Bridges of Madison County when I used to travel through Iowa on my way to Kansas, so I knew what was going to happen and where the story was set. I knew I needed to see the show because its music and lyrics were done by Jason Robert Brown (of The Last 5 Years fame) and because of its stars (Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale). I was fortunate enough to get a third row seat (bless you, rush tickets), so I was up close and personal to the visually stunning production. The lighting design was beautiful, the ensemble was solid, the leads oozed chemistry and the music was gorgeous. Some of the songs were similar in theme and melody to songs from The Last 5 Years, which is why I completely lost it during “Falling Into You” and “Before and After You/One Second & a Million Miles.” Those two songs were very reminiscent of “The Next Ten Minutes” and tears just started dripping slowly out of the corner of my eyes. I wasn’t the only one in tears, as I could hear people all around me weeping (or sobbing, like the guy in front of me) as the musical pressed on. It’s a happy show because it celebrates love (okay… it celebrates adultery, which is terrible, but you totally want Francesca and Robert to be together), but it’s a sad show because it exposes the realities of just how fragile love and relationships can be. Even a forever kind of love can’t last forever because eventually time pulls people apart. (The time aspect of it all killed me – I have a thing for schedules and planning and whatnot.) This was a beautiful, beautiful show and I highly recommend this. I expected O’Hara to be amazing and she was, but I was wholly impressed with Pasquale. I only knew him from Rescue Me and his couple episodes of Six Feet Under, but the man is a serious musical theater star.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder – Walter Kerr Theatre – Broadway Musical – Open Run

I had absolutely no idea what this show was about before I saw it; all I knew was it was getting great reviews and was supposed to be really funny. Holy hell, this was delightful. It’s about this guy named Monty Navarro who finds out he’s ninth in line to be the head of the D’Ysquith family (a noble family) and decides to off everyone ahead of him. Monty is a fairly harmless guy until he starts murdering everyone, and yet you still are cheering for him because the members of the D’Ysquith family are all ridiculous. And every member of the D’Ysquith family (even the ladies) is played by Jefferson Mays. If Mays is not nominated for a Tony, I will eat my Playbill because the man was all over that musical and played such a wide variety of characters with such ease. (Although it was hard work… I had a front row seat and the amount of sweat that poured off that man was crazy.) The songs weren’t super catchy (though “Better With a Man” is in rotation on my Playlist I listen to every day), but they were enjoyable. This was just a really fun show and the cast was really enjoyable to watch.

Violet – American Airlines Theatre – Broadway Musical – Closes August 10, 2014

When Sutton Foster is in a musical on Broadway, you go and see the musical. I was sad I missed a staged version of this last year at NYCC’s Encores, so I was super happy that it came to Broadway. The plot is that a woman with a badly scarred face (Foster as the title character) takes a bus from North Caroline to some evangelical church in Oklahoma so that the preacher and God can help her face become healed. Set in the 60s, Violet befriends two soldiers (one black, one white) and they convince her to hang with them on the journey. Racial issues are prevalent throughout the show, as is the commercial factor of mega churches. The show is performed without intermission and is paced fairly well. There are some really great songs interspersed throughout the score and I am very much looking forward to the cast album. This was the second time I’ve seen Foster on stage and I think she is the bee’s knees.

Of Mice and Men – Longacre Theatre – Broadway Play – Closes July 27, 2014

I had really high hopes for this show. Most of said hopes were dashed. Unlike everyone and their mom, I had actually never read Of Mice and Men, so all I knew headed into this was there was two guys and one of them was a bit slow in the head. I admit to seeing the show because of James Franco and Chris O’Dowd. I was very, very impressed with O’Dowd. He played Lennie, the slow guy, and easily stood out in every scene he was in because of his body language and all-around stage presence. Franco kinda just shouted most of his lines. While that worked in some scenes, it didn’t work in all of them. (I should point out that I saw the show just a couple days after his Instagram scandal and it obviously colored his performance. He vaguely referred to the incident after the show when the cast was raising money for BCEFA.) The biggest let down of the play, with regards to the cast, was Leighton Meester as Curley’s Wife. She was so one-dimensional and the opposite of charismatic. I was grateful any time she wasn’t on stage and was actually really happy when what happened to her character happened to her character. I know that’s mean, but I’m not going to apologize. She was not the right person for that part. The play itself was terribly paced and definitely dragged in spots. I was glad that I saw this because it was fun to see Franco and O’Dowd on stage, and O’Dowd’s performance was really great. But, on a whole, I was disappointed.

The Most Happy Fella – New York City Center – Encores! Musical – Closed

I’m a Frank Loesser fan but had honestly never heard any songs from this show before in my entire life. I wanted to see this because of the cast – Laura Benanti, Shuler Hensley and Cheyenne Jackson were the three leads and good god, are they talented people. Though the songs weren’t really all that memorable and the plot was cheesetastic and predictable, I still very much enjoyed this production. The whole cast was great and it was fun to see Clay Thomson in the Ensemble. (I follow him on his social media platforms and he always seems to like a bunch of my theater pictures on Instagram. Plus, he wore glasses and suspenders and is adorable as all get-out when he dances.) If you’ve never seen an Encores! Production, I highly recommend it. This was the second show I’ve seen there – it’s a great venue and the productions are wonderfully staged and orchestrated even though they only usually play from 1-7 times. I saw The Cradle Will Rock here last year and will see tick… tick… BOOM there in June. Tickets are usually very reasonable and it’s just a lot of fun to see a show there.

Jasper in Deadland – West End Theater – Prospect Theater Company – Closed

Oh, Matt Doyle. Swoon. So, my favorite theater buddy and I had front row tickets to this really charming musical about a high school boy who forces his way into the underworld to bring back his best friend, Agnes (who is dead). For such a tiny venue, this show packed in a lot of punch and had great visuals to go along with the plot. The whole cast was really strong, led by Matt Doyle and Allison Scagliotti. Since we were in the front row, we had a really great view of everything (like, down the front of Matt Doyle’s pants when his character was splayed out on the stage in front of us… we could only see the V and the band of his underwear so maybe we didn’t see everything, okay?). I really loved the music, especially “Hello, Jasper!,” “Jasper in Deadland,” and “Stroke by Stroke.” I wish there was a cast album because I need more Matt Doyle vocals in my life. (Side note – favorite theater buddy and I are seeing Matt Doyle’s show at 54 Below next month!) I am very grateful I got to see this before it closed. I love seeing shows in tiny venues because it really heightens the theater-going experience.

The Cripple of Inishmaan – Cort Theatre – Broadway Play – Closes July 20, 2014.

Go see this play. Just, go see it. Written by one of my favorite playwrights (Martin McDonagh), The Cripple of Inishmaan is about this crippled boy named Billy who gets picked on by everyone in his little Irish town because of his cripple-ness, and he decides he wants to get out of there (and the way he does that is convinces a friend to take him to a film set that is shooting nearby, because the casting people are looking for people from the area to be in their movie). Billy is played by Daniel Radcliffe whose physicality is so amazing that it is painful to watch him because of how contorted his leg and arm are during the show. (He’s not in every scene, but the scenes he is in definitely prove that Radcliffe has legit acting chops and is wholly capable of a career post-Potter. People who only think he is Harry Potter are sorely mistaken. The man is an actor, and a bloody good one at that. Jesus.) The play is rife with curse words and heavy Irish accents by all. It’s wickedly funny and downright sad/moving at the same time. This is the second McDonagh play I’ve seen on Broadway and I would see anything and everything he’s written because I love his writing so much. He always manages to weave twisted humor into often harrowing stories – he’s a genius. I saw this play the first day of previews and was lucky enough to get my Playbill signed by Radcliffe. (Stage door was a fucking nightmare, just so you know.) See this play. Trust me.

The Realistic Joneses – Lyceum Theatre – Broadway Play – Open Run

Skip this play. In fact, I bet this is going to close sooner than later because it just really wasn’t that great. While it stars four very, very talented actors (Michael C. Hall, Toni Collette, Marisa Tomei and Tracy Letts), the play itself is choppy and lacks flow. There were some very funny lines of dialogue interspersed throughout the show, but even those one-liners could not help the overall quality of the play. I found myself wishing it would end soon after it started even though some of my favorite actors were right there on stage in front of me. The play was about two sets of neighbors and how they shared (or didn’t share) aspects of their lives with each other. Four characters meant scenes with any number of combinations of actors on stage at once. I found myself paying more attention when Hall and Collette were on stage, but only because I favored them to begin with. I am glad I saw the show because I like the cast and have no idea when I’ll ever get a chance to see them on stage again, but I have zero will to ever see this play or read it. I was wholly unimpressed and walked out of that theater hugely disappointed. I don’t understand how such a lackluster production gets an open-ended Broadway run. I didn’t learn anything. I didn’t feel anything. I wasn’t moved. I wasn’t challenged. I laughed at cheap jokes and silly observations. I guess I should just be happy that at least I did laugh at some parts of the play.

So, yeah… that’s what I’ve seen on stage the past few months. I have tickets to see The Cradle Will Rock and Hedwig and the Angry Inch in May, as well as the aforementioned tick… tick… BOOM in June. I’m sure I’ll see some other stuff along the way!

Have a good one 🙂

Advertisements

I was fortunate enough to snag a Student Rush ticket to the first preview (Thursday September 5, 2013) of the latest Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.

The Glass Menagerie is one of those iconic American pieces of drama that most people are familiar with because they were forced to read the play in middle school or have caught a production of it somewhere along the way. It’s a simple play in that consists of four characters and takes place entirely within the walls (and balcony) of the Wingfield’s home, but it’s actually so much more in depth and complicated than that. Each of those four characters (Wingfield mother Amanda, Wingfield daughter Laura, Wingfield son Tom, and Gentleman Caller James) are entrusted with complex internal and external issues that are impossible to resolve within a two hour play. Their problems are our own, so we laugh alongside them. We laugh at them. But we also hurt inside just as much as (if not more so than) they do.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the plot of The Glass Menagerie (or just need a refresher), it’s about the patriarch-less Wingfield family (the father is out of the picture, having “fallen in love with long distance”). Amanda desperately hopes for a gentleman caller to call on her painfully shy (and crippled) daughter, Laura, so that Laura will be taken care of and not turn into a spinster. Laura’s brother, Tom, works at a soul-sucking job and is in charge of providing for his family even though he wishes he could be doing something more with his life. When Amanda asks Tom to find someone to call on Laura, Tom brings home a friend from work (James). Laura and James hit it off, but there is more to James’s story than he leads on. Though there are fleeting moments of happiness and joy, ultimately everyone’s dreams get dashed somehow.

Long story short – Unicorns without their horns are just horses. (See what I did there…)

Though it was wrong of me, I had ridiculously high expectations of this production based on the source material, the creative team (a lot of the same people behind Once) and the cast.

I was not disappointed. In fact, I was completely blown away by this production. If it weren’t for the guy next to me laughing at every little thing (regardless if it was funny or not), I would have felt like the only person in the theater. I was that absorbed into the story that I could have easily forgot there was anyone else in the room except for me and that cast.

All four members of the cast brought something to the table. Cherry Jones is a national treasure. Seriously – if you have not seen this woman on stage you are missing out. This is the second show I’ve seen her in (I also saw her in The Faith Healer in 2006… also at The Booth) and I am in complete awe at her talent. She commands the stage and is deserving of the attention. While Amanda could be seen as a selfish character, Jones gives even the most ridiculous monologues a sense of purpose. There are always layers to anything Amanda says and it’s fascinating to see this woman go on and on and on… as if she needs to keep talking to fill the air or someone else would have the opportunity to cut in (which Tom does sometimes…). Amanda tells stories to remember the good times, but her stories also remind her (and the audience) about the reality of her present and her fears for Laura’s future. Her mistakes won’t become Laura’s mistakes, but their futures would likely be the same. Self-preservation gives way to looking out for her daughter, but try as Amanda might, Laura’s future remains uncertain and it’s a painful truth for the entire family. If Cherry Jones does not earn a Tony nomination next year, I will eat my hat. This woman is a force on stage and it is always a privilege to see her do what she does best.

Celia Keenan-Bolger plays Laura with such care and grace. (I saw her once before in Peter and the Starcatcher, as her undertstudy was in when I saw The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee years and years ago.) Though the character could be perceived as naïve, Laura is very self-aware. (Self-aware to the point that her own self-esteem is as crippled as her foot.) She shies away from people, instead feeling more at home with her collection of glass figurines (hence the title of the play). Her favorite piece is a little glass unicorn (that is on display for the whole of the play… because symbolism). Laura stands up for herself when she needs to and let’s people in when she feels safe. Watching her gain confidence is inspiring, but coming off of that high is downright heartbreaking. CKB is an amazing actress and she brings such an authenticity to the characters she plays.

Brian J. Smith (The Gentleman Caller) was the only cast member I was unfamiliar with. As announced in Tom’s opening monologue, The Gentleman Caller only appears in the last part of the play, but plays an important part. That he does… that he does. Though we only see him on stage for a short amount of time, The Gentleman Caller is the missing piece to the other three characters’ puzzles… but he still doesn’t quite fit their needs. For Amanda, he’s a solution to her daughter’s impending spinsterhood. For Laura, he’s the first (and only) person she ever loved. For Tom, he’s a colleague and perhaps something more. (I’ll delve into that when I discuss Zachary Quinto as Tom in a couple paragraph…) However, The Gentleman Caller manages to get everyone’s hopes up and then spectacularly dashes them all. However, as an audience member, I didn’t hate him (even though I felt like I should). Perhaps it’s because Brian J. Smith was so charming and likeable on stage, or perhaps it’s because I’m a grown up now (as opposed to the 6th grader I was when I read the play for the first time… young children will never understand the complexities of a Tennessee Williams play… I sure as hell didn’t). I understand now that The Gentleman Caller was never supposed to be the thing that solved the Wingfield’s problems – he was supposed to highlight them and make the family (and each individual member of it) deal with the realities of the situations they were facing. Smith’s “aw-gee” presence on stage was needed to give the weighty issues we all were thinking about some levity. Even though he brought on just as much (or more) pain than he eased, The Gentleman Caller is a necessary character to round out the Wingfield trio.

And then there was Tom. This was Zachary Quinto’s broadway debut and I felt really lucky to be a witness to the start of what is sure to be a successful Broadway career (should he wish to continue to act on the Great White Way). I was mesmerized by his stage presence and his presence on the stage. What I mean by that is that he commanded the stage (he has a screaming match with Jones that will make your eyes go wide), but you could also see him in the moment. I was lucky enough to have a 7th row seat and because I remembered to wear my glasses, I could clearly see his facial expressions throughout the scenes. There was this one moment when he was watching Jones give one of her monologues and I swear to you that his eyes were sparkling – like he was thoroughly enjoying this spectacle of a story that Jones was weaving. In that moment, though, I couldn’t tell if it was Tom listening to Amanda or Quinto watching Jones. To me, it seemed like the latter – like Quinto was just beyond pleased to be watching Jones shine from just a few feet away. Or maybe Tom was just really interested in one of his mom’s stories… (which somehow I just don’t buy, given their relationship).

I found Tom to be the most tormented character in the play because he was caught between wanting things for himself and needing to provide for his family. He wants to write, but is stuck working in a job he doesn’t love to be able to support his mom and sister because his father is no longer in the picture. Each night he goes to the movies and doesn’t wander back home until a few hours before he has to get up for work. It’s a vicious cycle that he doesn’t break, but it’s wearing him down more and more. He snaps at his mother, is protective of his sister and wants more for his life than the hand he was dealt. When he does do something for himself, everyone else suffers. The lights literally go out. When Amanda confronts her son what he does each night, he constantly explains he goes to the movies. There’s a lot that’s not said here, but as the play wore on, I interpreted Tom’s late-night entertainment was going to the movies, but then perhaps seeking comfort elsewhere. He was no stranger to drinking, but I was under the assumption he was looking for a gentleman caller of his own… or at least someone (or someones) to help him relieve some tension.

Now, before I started typing this up, I actually Googled if Tom Wingfield is specifically written as a gay character. I found no concrete “yes” or “no” answer, but there were several opinions and pieces claiming that because Tennessee Williams was gay, and that in The Glass Menagerie Tom is a fictional stand-in for Williams, that Tom is gay. There’s even an article in the back of the Playbill about Zachary Quinto (“In Glass Houses” by Harry Haun) that quotes Quinto as saying “To play Tom – which is the clearest distillation of Tennessee Williams himself – at this time in my life is perfect.” (Quinto came out in October 2011.) Though Tom’s sexuality is not at the forefront of the play, it does affect the interpretation of this character. Remember, the play takes place in 1937…

Though the play is set almost 80 years ago, its themes still very much resonate today. Family responsibility, employment, financial security, individuality, disability and then some are all things we’ve either dealt with ourselves or tangentally through a loved one. That’s what makes this play so easy and so hard to watch – we can relate to these people probably more than we care to admit.

This is a fantastic show. Simple as that. The cast is great. The minimal set is perfect. (There’s some furniture, a fire escape, a glass unicorn and a typewriter… because you know, symbolism.) It was just icing on the cake for me that The Glass Menagerie is playing at The Booth (where I saw my very first Broadway show – The Pillowman – nine years ago).

Now in previews, The Glass Menagerie opens on September 26, 2013. (They do a student rush – $35. You are allowed 1 or 2 tickets and must show a student ID.) It’s playing at The Booth, which is located on 45th St between 8th Ave and Broadway.

Stagedoor – I did go to the stagedoor after the show. (This is my experience/what I saw and not a guarantee that it’ll be like this each night.) The cast had a lot of guests (as it was first preview), so they didn’t come out to sign until about an hour after the show. All four cast members came out and signed. (It was announced that they would only be signing Playbills and show posters, so the people who only had Star Trek stuff and headshots had to leave.)

Quinto was the first person out and he looked legitimately surprised and overwhelmed at the crowd at the stagedoor. (I thought this was cute, as there were not really that many people there compared to other stagedoor experiences I’ve had after other shows.) He signed for people and took pictures (make sure to have your cameras ready when it’s your turn). I didn’t get a picture, but as he was signing my Playbill, I congratulated him on his Broadway debut and he looked up and made eye contact with me before thanking me for coming to see the show. And it wasn’t even just a “Thanks for seeing the show.” It was a heartfelt and extremely grateful/gracious “Thank you so much for coming to the show.” It was almost as if he was surprised that so many strangers were that receptive and appreciative of his work. He deserved it, though. He was great as Tom (albeit a little quiet in spots… I’m glad I had a close seat, else I would have missed some of his dialogue) and definitely made an impact on me. His sincerity and general niceness to me and the crowd has earned ZQ a spot on my list of actors who I respect even more having met them in person. (Darren Criss and Zachery Levi hold the top spots, but ZQ is definitely in the Top 5.)

The crowd at the stagedoor thinned out considerable after Quinto and CKB signed, but I hung around for the other two. I really wanted to talk to Cherry Jones, but some guy started talking at her and their conversation carried over through when she was signing my Playbill, so I didn’t even get a proper chance to thank her. She’s amazing. Like, amazing. Brian J. Smith borrowed my Sharpie to sign my Playbill and commented that it (the marker) was green, like that was some huge surprise.

This post has been days in the making. On a whim, I stopped into the Barrymore after lunch on Monday to ask the dumb question of if they still had Youth tickets for that night’s performance of The Scottish Play (Macbeth) … and as luck would have it, they did.

 

My eyebrows shot up in shock and I quickly yanked out my wallet and slid $30 and my ID under the window in the lobby to pay for my ticket and prove that I was, in fact, under the age of 30. (All Broadway shows have different rush policies, and Macbeth’s is that they have a limited amount of $30 tickets for patrons under the age of 30… I don’t turn 30 until November, so I’m trying to take full advantage of these “Under Age 30” deals while I can.)

 

That night, I sat down in my 11th row aisle seat (partial view seat, but that was expected) and waited anxiously for the play to begin. Instead of reading the synopsis of the play and character breakdown provided in the Playbill, I filled out a survey from the Broadway League and then looked about the theater, hoping to see a familiar face or two.

 

A couple minutes before the play was to start, I did see a familiar face. Jane Lynch (dear Lord she is tall) walked down the aisle to my left and was shown her aisle seat a few rows up from mine. Just as the lights were turned off, I slid over a few seats (as my row literally had me and a pair of older gentleman several seats down from me) so I could have a better view of the stage. I also ended up having a better view of Jane Lynch. It was odd watching her watch the play, but my attention stayed mainly on the stage because Alan Cumming was completely mesmerizing.

 

For those of you who are not aware, this version of Macbeth is a one-man show starring Alan Cumming as all the characters. Set in a hospital of sorts, Cumming is left on his own accord (but then watched and tended to from time to time by two doctors) and proceeds to act out the entire Scottish Play.

 

I was remiss that I didn’t read the synopsis and character breakdown because it took me awhile to figure out some of the relationships between the various characters and keep them all in check. Cumming did a miraculous job at giving each character a distinctive voice or movement (sometimes both). There were also a few key props (an apple, a creepy doll, a wheelchair and a sweater) that were important throughout the play.

 

If you’re like me, you probably read Macbeth once or twice in high school and haven’t paid much thought to it over the past decade or so. You remember the story and a couple key lines of dialogue, but you probably don’t remember how everyone is related or why this person wants to kill that person. However, even though I forgot a majority of the plot from when I last read Macbeth (which was fall of 1998 or spring of 1999…), that didn’t mean I appreciated the play any less.

 

Alan Cumming is a force to be reckoned with. I now fully understand why he doesn’t do matinees during his run because if watching him was emotionally taxing (which it very much was), I cannot imagine the stress doing this show puts on his body and soul. He literally flings himself around on stage for an hour and a half, baring every aspect of himself – inside and out.

 

Yes, there is nudity. From the start, Cumming’s character is stripped from his everyday clothes and changed into hospital garb with the help of the two doctors. During the play he takes a bath in a tub onstage and is in varying stages of dress throughout. Despite seeing every inch of Alan Cumming (which I think was accidental… but from where I was sitting, his towel didn’t quite cover him post-bath), this was the least distracting/unnecessary stage nudity that I’ve ever seen in a show. It wasn’t that I didn’t notice – it’s that it was very much a believable and necessary part of the story that it never took you out of the moment.

 

Plays like this make me glad the theater was mostly dark throughout the entire time. My facial expressions ran the complete gamut of emotions. I laughed. I gasped. I winced. I shuddered. I was startled. I was stunned. I was horrified. I was charmed. I was scared.

 

I was moved.

 

My eyes were glued to the stage and I couldn’t peel them away. I had to keep following Cumming as he purposefully positioned himself around various parts of the stage, using three surveillance cameras and a bathroom mirror as both allies and foes. These were means where he could play several characters at once, or highlight the epic loneliness that was really being shown on stage.

 

One of the biggest thrills for me was getting to hear Cumming speak in a Scottish accent/dialect throughout the entire play. Most of the time when we see him on film or on television, he’s got an American accent or something that is not entirely his own brogue. Though he used many different voices throughout the show, I got a kick out of hearing the Scottish Play being performed by a Scot with a proper accent.

 

Macbeth is at the Barrymore through July 14th. If you want to see the Bard’s words being masterfully spoken by one of the greatest stage performers of his generation, get yourself a ticket and settle into your seat. Don’t say the play’s name while in the theater, but this intermission-free performance of Macbeth is worth a see if you are in the city before the middle of July.

 

 

One of my best friends was in town for a brief visit, so even though we were both completely worn out and tired, we had one hell of a night out on the town.

 

After a mad scramble to get theater tickets (I was in line for Book of Mormon standing room tickets up on 49th while she was in line for student rush tickets for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on 46th), she secured us two fourth row seats to one of the greatest plays ever written.

 

We had some time to kill and were starving, so we opted for sushi. Somehow this was my first sushi since moving to New York and it was the same restaurant she had last year during the week that was our crazy New Years/seeing Darren Criss on Broadway in H2$ multiple times (she saw it twice, I saw it three times). We sat down among other people seeking warmth and sushi on a chilly Wednesday night and waited patiently to order.

 

As we sat, a very loud and somewhat annoying couple sat at the table next to us. They asked the server his opinion on everything… literally. They asked him to go course through course giving recommendations. (Please note that this was not some fancy-schmancy sushi restaurant… it was a small place on 45th and 8th and it was super inexpensive. So, it’s not like there was any chef’s special or anything that any media source indicated was a “must try.” Who were these people trying to impress?) Sadly, my friend and I continued to judge these people because they too were going to see a show… Annie.

 

Two grown-ass people were going to see Annie.

 

Now, I have nothing against that musical as I’ve seen it a couple times in my day at various community theaters. It’s a safe show. It’s a familiar show. But it’s Annie.  

 

Maybe it’s just me, but I like to be challenged by what I’m seeing. Or I like to see something that will get you talking. I saw The Anarchist a couple months ago and even though it was not great, it sparked some epic conversation between my friend and I. David Mamet makes you think. Annie doesn’t.

 

And maybe these people didn’t want to put any effort in their theater-going last night…. And on some level, I get that. Sometimes you just want to be entertained.

 

I, on the other hand… I wanted to feel something. I wanted to watch someone fall apart.

 

Tennessee Williams is without a doubt, one of the greatest playwrights of all time. He’s got a way with words that is enviable. I spent parts of the play sitting asking myself, “Why can’t I write like that?”. His characters are so complex and yet not at the same time. People could easily write off Maggie as a selfish woman who can’t please/can’t be pleased by her husband, but she is so much more than that. Maggie talks because the silence is too deafening to stand. She knows how to push people’s buttons, but can just as easily turn around and defend them with everything she’s got.

 

I’m grateful that I got to see Scarlett Johansson on stage. I’ve seen almost all of her films, but never really went along with the hype. I have so much more respect for her now that I’ve seen her in a play. She was mesmerizing to watch and was able to convey a gamut of emotions within mere seconds. Her eyes were expressive and she easily twisted her frown into a knowing smirk when the situation called for it. Though Maggie comes off strong at the beginning, you quickly find yourself sympathizing with her for trying to hold her marriage together as well as stand up for her in-laws. Johansson’s raspy voice and the southern accent she adopted for the role gave Maggie an almost masculine edge that was well-suited for the character. (See – [SPOILER ALERT] her husband is [correctly] accused of having relations with his male BFF from his football days. He’s not feminized in any way, by any means, but all his drinking and self-loathing make him a weak character in some regards. Even though Brick is physically strong – his body is still well kept and fit even though he drinks like whoa – he’s also physically weak because he broke his ankle and relies on a crutch to get around in less pain than when he hobbles around with no crutch.)

 

I had never seen Benjamin Walker in anything, though I knew of him from articles I read about “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” Walker is a very talented actor and was very committed to the physical and emotional pain his character (Brick) was going through. He hobbled across that stage and grimaced with such conviction when his hurt ankle was jarred to the point where I was grimacing right along with him.

 

And – I have zero shame in writing this – it was a privilege to be in the fourth row for Walker’s performance for aesthetic purposes. The man walked out onstage in a white towel and nothing else and it set the tone for his oft-mentioned physical prowess. Though Johansson lead the entire first act almost on her own, Walker’s arms/back/chest/hair/ass took center stage because his body is so attractive it was almost distracting. While it could have been easy to just forget about the words and stare at the gorgeous man on stage, Walker’s acting abilities were able to transcend his looks and he was able to use every aspect of his being to really round out his character. (That being said, the man wore either a towel or see-through white silk pants with nothing on underneath for the entire show… holy smokes. Like… I’m sure there could be a book of poetry written about Benjamin Walker’s ass.)

 

I read a couple interviews Walker did about the show and he’s well aware of the (surface) physical aspects of the show. However, he literally throws himself about the stage and really knows his character inside and out. I love watching actors “go there”… just losing themselves in the moment and expressing raw, real emotions. The whole cast really pulled that off onstage. It wasn’t forced, nor did it feel fake or just for show. This is why I love theater. This is why I would give up television if I could go see a well performed stage show each night. (Someday when I’m rich, I will see ALL THE SHOWS.)

 

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is playing at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City through March 30th. If you have the means and want to get your feels on, I highly recommend it.