My WiFi was out at my apartment, so I couldn’t stream Season 2 of Orange is the New Black.

Instead of sulking about not being able to see what’s up in prison this season, I’ve decided to type up a “shows I’ve seen in the past few weeks” blog while most everything is still fresh in my head.

It’s been busy few months and I’ve seen some AMAZING shows.

Since I last posted about theater, here is what I saw…

The Cradle Will Rock – one night only performance at the Jacobs

So, a few months ago I got an email saying that Patti LuPone and a bunch of the 1981 cast of The Cradle Will Rock (and a few newcomers) would be doing a one night only performance of the show in May. I bought my ticket about 15 minutes after receiving said email. The Cradle Will Rock is a politically-charged musical about unions. The songs are catchy, the jokes are still relevant and PATTI LUPONE. (When you have the opportunity to see LuPone on stage, you take it. Got it?) I saw a staged version of this show at the New York City Center last summer, but was thrilled that I’d get to see it again. (I highly recommend the movie The Cradle Will Rock – Tim Robbins’s 1994 film about how the musical came about in the first place. It’s wonderful.) The show was solid and I was so glad I went. (This was the fourth production I’ve seen LuPone in now… love her.) I was mostly really glad for the kid I was sitting next to. He knew nothing of the show, but was a huge Patti LuPone fan and had just finished his first year of musical theater school. My heart was swelling for him and it was my hope that he enjoyed himself. (He did.)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch – presently playing at the Belasco

Holy shit. This was the single most amazing musical theater experience of my life. If NPH didn’t win the Tony, I was going to lose faith in the theater community. (He did win. And rightly so. Same with Lena Hall’s Best Featured Actress in a Musical and Best Revival. ALL DESERVED.)

I still cannot properly express how blown away I was by this show. I had seen the movie ages ago and knew what the general gist was, but I purposefully didn’t listen to the soundtrack or read any reviews before I saw NPH KILL IT as Hedwig.

The basic plot of the show is that it’s Hedwig’s concert and he explains through/in between songs how he came to have his angry inch and go from a young gay man in East Berlin to the cross-dressing songstress in America. The cast is Hedwig, his present boyfriend/backup singer, and a four-man band. The end. NPH is on stage for pretty much the entire show and he owns that stage and everyone in the audience. As Hedwig, he interacts with the crowd, performs in tall heels, dons some cray cray outfits and wigs, and goes through a beyond gut-wrenching arc all in 100 minutes. NPH is not just a showman, he’s a damn good performer, actor and all-around entertainer. He has mastered the comedy and tragedy of Hedwig’s story and if you aren’t gobsmacked after seeing that show, then you did something wrong.

My jaw was hanging open the entire time and I found myself wishing I could just feel that way forever. I was so moved. So entertained. So enriched. Seeing Hedwig was a defining moment for me and I wish everyone could experience that kind of theater-going magic at least once in his/her life.

NPH is exiting the show in August and will be replaced by Andrew Rannells. I need to see this show again, and I need to see Rannells as Hedwig.

This show is definitely not for everyone. (There’s a lot of swears, references to homosexuality, lap dances, lewd humor and all around not-PC stuff. It’s glorious.) But if you want your cage rattled in the best way possible, I very much urge you to see this show.

Matt Doyle at 54 Below (two nights only)

Awwwww, precious. Matt Doyle is precious. My favorite theater buddy and I bought tickets for this months ago and we were so glad we did because Matt Doyle is a joy to watch in person. This was the first time I saw him perform any of his original music, so that was a lot of fun. The whole evening was just very enjoyable. Matt Doyle (as that is what I’ve called him to his face, so that is what I will forever refer to him as – first and last name, thankyouverymuch) is a very talented singer and he’s just a goofy little dude who seems to really love getting to perform with his friends. My favorite part of the night was when he and another cast member from Jasper in Deadland sang “As Long As You’re Mine” from Wicked. Loved. It.

Rocky – presently playing at the Winter Garden

HOLY SHIT, GO SEE THIS SHOW.

I’m not kidding. You should totally see this show.

And you’re probably thinking, “Rocky? Like, that boxing movie is on Broadway? And it’s a musical?! What the damn hell?”

See, that’s exactly what I was thinking. I was like, “Man, this is probably going to be really dumb and cheesy.” I mean, I saw Rocky when I was younger and was like, “Man, that is really cheesy.”

But guess what? THE MUSICAL IS FRIGGIN’ AWESOME.

I ended up with front row tickets for myself and my sister and they were the greatest seats ever. We were nice and close to the stage, and then we were friggin’ ring-side for the epic fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed that happens for the last 20 minutes of the show. (The ushers literally escort the center orchestra seated people from their seats in Rows A-F [“the Golden Circle” seats] to bleachers on the stage and then they assemble a boxing ring in the middle of the audience! And since we had left orchestra seats, we were ring-side! We got high-5s from Paulie! We were literally right by Rocky’s corner. IT WAS EPIC.)

So the show itself is literally the plot of the first Rocky movie and it totally works as a musical because Rocky is a really vulnerable and likeable character. Throughout the course of the show, I found myself caring a lot about Rocky and literally rooting for him by time his big fight happens. (I was standing and cheering loudly for Rocky. Like, I was actually on my feet and yelling, “COME ON, ROCKY!” like I was at a real fight. I CARED, OKAY?)

For me, the show worked because of Andy Karl (who plays Rocky). I was familiar with Andy Karl from his role in Legally Blonde: The Musical (he played the UPS guy, Kyle), but now he will forever be Rocky to me. He had the low voice going. The shrug-my-shoulders-cuz-I-know-I’m-a-goof-but-I-got-feelings-too. His cute little sweater he wore in the Thanksgiving scene (SWOON). How he talked to his turtles (“Yo, turtles.” SWOOOON). Not to mention him in his wife-beater and boxing shorts. (Damn, son.) Andy Karl definitely has the acting chops and singing chops to lead that great ensemble and his Tony nomination for Best Actor in a Musical was well deserved. (There was no way in hell he was going to win… let’s be real. But he totally earned that nomination and rightly so.)

After the show, we were able to meet most of the cast at the stage door. We chatted with Margo Seibert (she played Adrian and was really great – I love her voice and she had some really tough ballads that she nailed) and Terence Archie (Apollo Creed). We were also able to talk to Andy Karl and get pictures with him. We told him we were fans since Legally Blonde and he mentioned his stylus line and joked that he was still wearing tight shorts. Everyone was super nice and seemed very appreciative of the good reception they were getting from the audience.

I would love to see this show again and be a part of the Golden Circle. I had the chance to get Golden Circle tickets, but my sister and I would have been separated for the whole show and we wanted to sit together. If I go by myself later on, I’ll take advantage of the special seats.

Rocky turned out to be one of my favorite shows of the season (along with The Bridges of Madison County, Twelfth Night and Hedwig and the Angry Inch). I was just so surprised by the amount of heart and spirit this show had. I seriously thought it was going to be dumb, but I was so, so wrong. Go see Rocky. It’s a lot of fun and a really unique theater-going experience.

(Also, if there ever were going to be an X-Men musical, Andy Karl would make the PERFECT Wolverine. Just sayin’…)

Newsies – playing at the Nederlander

I saw Newsies when I first moved to NYC (when Jeremy Jordan was just finishing up his run as Jack Kelly), so I was glad to see it again with Corey Cott in the lead. My, he gets a bit intense. I still loved the show. Newsies is one of my favorite Disney movies of all time and I love the stage adaptation because it’s a real crowd-pleaser (what with all the dancing, a better female character/love interest who actually serves a purpose to the plot instead of feeling like an afterthought, and how the songs are more powerfully presented). I was grateful to have a balcony seat this time so that I didn’t miss anything (especially during “Once and For All”). Newsies is just super fun and the ensemble is fantastic. So many cute dancing boys. So. Many.

If/Then – playing at the Richard Rogers Theatre

My sister won us lotto tickets for this show, so not only were our tickets $25, but they were FRONT ROW. (For the record, my sister’s name was the first drawn in the lotto, so not all lotto tickets are front row. We just happened to luck out big time.) I was super excited to see this show because I had never seen Idina Menzel perform in person and one of my friends had really hyped up the plot and the music. I walked away feeling blown away by Menzel (holy hell, woman), but completely underwhelmed from the show itself. You know how people have been saying that it’s basically Sliding Doors the Musical? Well, it really is. And though I could relate to the over-arching questions of “What happens if you make this choice over that choice? And how does that affect you in the long run?” I couldn’t really relate to the protagonist because she was nearing 40 (I just turned 30), she was having relationship problems with a boyfriend and best friend (I’m presently very single for reasons), and she was having issues with her career (I don’t have a career right now because I’m still working toward getting my first book published. And dog walking is not a career. Not for me, anyway.) The songs were all right, the ensemble was good, but I just was not super moved by this show. I think my friend hyped it up too much and I walked in with too big of expectations. Menzel deserved a better show than this for her return to the stage. I mean, I’m glad I saw it, but there were a bunch of other shows this season that actually struck a lasting chord with me. I’ll remember this show for seeing Menzel belt out her solos from feet away. I’ll remember stuff like Rocky and Hedwig for how they touched my heart and made me feel the gamut of emotions.

The 68th Annual Tony Awards Dress Rehearsal – Radio City Music Hall

Yes, I was lucky enough to see the Tonys Dress Rehearsal for a second year in a row. (PINCH ME. HOW IS THIS MY LIFE?) This was the reason my sister came to visit me – because I had tickets to watch Hugh Jackman rehearse his hosting duties. And trust me, NO ONE knew what the hell he was getting at when he hopped in. NO ONE. What a waste of an opening. (NPH’s opening last year was epic. EPIC.) And while on a whole this year’s Tonys rehearsal was not as exciting as last year’s, it was still really cool to see. I mean, we got to see performances from all the nominated New Musicals and Revivals. (I was so sad that the Violet performance focused mostly on the church part… that’s, like, not even a majority of the show.) It was cool to see Sting perform, even though I’m not really looking forward to The Last Ship. (We saw Sting perform twice, as they had to run that bit again at the rehearsals. TWICE THE STING, FOLKS.) It was also AMAZING to see Jennifer Hudson. Holy shit. I mean, I was a little disappointed that we weren’t going to see Jeremy Jordan, or any of the actual cast from Finding Neverland, but JENNIFER HUDSON. That woman takes you to Church and back every time she sings. I had goosebumps. It was also cool to see Alan Cumming perform with the Cabaret cast even though that show wasn’t really nominated for anything. But, Alan Cumming as the Emcee is iconic, so that was awesome. It was fun to see what presenters actually showed up to practice their lines. I was most excited to see Audra McDonald, Matt Bomer, Zachary Levi, Patricia Clarkson, Bradley Cooper, Zachary Quinto and Vera Farmiga. I was bummed that neither Clint Eastwood nor Tina Fey were at rehearsals.

As much as I love Hugh Jackman, I hope NPH hosts next year.

The Tony Awards Gala – The Plaza

Let me be perfectly clear: I did NOT attend the Tonys Gala. I worked at the Tonys Gala. (I took tickets at one of the entrances.) A friend got me involved with this gig and I will be forever grateful to her because it was so much fun! And while I will not divulge whom I saw and/or took tickets from, I will say that it was a really lovely time. The people I took tickets from were very nice and it was fun answering questions or helping people with directions when needed. If you’ve ever worked at a retail establishment as a greeter that was basically what I was doing. (I would ask people for their tickets and then told them to have a nice night. The end. Regardless who I was taking tickets from, they got the same greeting and smile as everyone else.) In addition to the people attending the gala being friendly, I also got to work with a nice little group of fellow ticket-takers/direction-givers. It’s amazing how much fun you can having while you’re working so long as you’re working with the right people. During our shift, we got to walk around the gala for a few minutes and grab a soda and some snacks. I felt wholly out of place in my $8 dress from Target, but no one treated me like I was less than. When me and the person I was working with left for the night, someone else working at the gala (who was not a part of the group we were working with) offered to hail us a cab like he had been doing for gala guests. I smiled at his offer, but said “No thank you” and crossed the street to wait for the subway to take me back to reality.

I don’t know if I’ll get to do this again next year, but I sure hope so. I very much love and respect the theater community and it was a real privilege to get to help out on a night that celebrates Broadway because Broadway has meant (and still means) so much to me.

Much Ado About Nothing – playing as part of Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte in Central Park

Shakespeare in the Park is one of my most favorite things about living in New York City. It’s FREE theater performed by wonderful ensembles of actors. I was fortunate enough to score a pair of virtual lottery tickets for the 6/14 show and it was amazing. My favorite theater buddy and I thoroughly enjoyed the three-hour romp of love, betrayal and shenanigans. (If you think about it, the plot is terribly sexist and a majority of the characters are horrible people, but it’s Shakespeare, so we are groomed to think his work is the bee’s knees.)

I haven’t seen or read Much Ado in about a decade, but vaguely remembered the plot and main characters. Having taken a Shakespearean Comedies course in undergrad, I am very familiar with the “rules” of what makes this story a comedy. And while there were dozens of laugh-out-loud moments (holy shit, Hamish Linklater as Benedick repeatedly made me laugh so hard that there were tears in my eyes), there were also other key aspects of Shakespeare’s comedies… like weddings. And mistaken identities.

It was a real privilege to see this cast. I saw Hamish Linklater and Lily Rabe in last year’s performance of The Comedy of Errors and was thrilled to be able to see them on stage again. There were other familiar faces in the cast as well, like John Pankow (Ira from Mad About You), Pedro Pascal (he’s on that Game of Thrones show) and Brian Stokes Mitchell.

Yes, you read that right… BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL.

My heart stopped when he first walked out on stage. I knew he was in the show, but there’s a difference between knowing someone is in a show and actually seeing him/her acting right in front of you. Brian Stokes Mitchell is one of those performers who has forever been on my list of people I need to see perform in person at least once in my life.

And, man, did he not disappoint. It was brilliant to see him on stage, and his character even SANG for a few moments throughout the play. I was dying. DYING. (You don’t get it… I’ve listened to him and Audra sing “Wheels of a Dream” from Ragtime for almost 20 years now and his voice is just so prominent and the epitome of musical theater greatness.) But then… then…

So, we waited around after the show because my friend wanted to meet Pedro Pascal (she watches GOT, but I do not). We did get a chance to chat with him for a few moments and I took a picture of her and him after he signed our programs. We were really hoping to chat with Hamish Linklater, but we saw him quietly duck out with a child in tow, so we didn’t say anything because it is wholly rude and inappropriate to approach an actor when he’s in parent-mode.

The crowd at the stage door dispersed after Pedro Pascal was done taking pictures and whatnot, but my friend and I hung around because we saw Brian Stokes Mitchell behind the gate, meaning that he was still there and hadn’t left yet. I was flummoxed – like, does the younger generation of people not know who Brian Stokes Mitchell is and his importance in the New York theater scene?

One of the ushers asked my friend and I if we were waiting for someone in particular and I said that I saw Mr. Mitchell behind the gate and we were hoping to maybe say Hi. The usher immediately said “Oh! I’ll go tell him! Hold on.” And then the usher disappeared behind the gate and a few minutes later, BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL WALKED TOWARD US.

He was so nice and friendly! He was surprised that my friend and I waited for the chance to speak with him and I nervously rambled that we have been fans for a long time and that it was a real pleasure to see him perform. He talked with us for about five minutes, asking us questions about how we liked the show, where we were from, if we were theater people, etc… He even wrote little messages in our programs and was really just very kind. My heart is still on the verge of explosion because I honestly did not expect to ever get a chance to see Brian Stokes Mitchell in person, let alone talk to him for a few minutes. What a classy dude. And that voice. Dear lord, that voice. All day today I have been whispering “Brian Stokes Mitchell” to myself and laughing because meeting him was a real thing that happened.

But the show – go see the show. The whole cast is really spectacular and the show itself is just so entertaining. Watching Shakespeare being performed is so much more fulfilling than just reading it. It’s so much easier to understand because of the body language being used, and the inflection or peoples’ voices. I am continually amazed by Hamish Linklater’s epic commitment to his role. There’s a reason he was nominated for a Drama Desk award for The Comedy of Errors last year. I would not be surprised if he gets nominated for Much Ado next season. His physical comedy is masterful, but he’s also very skilled at the more vulnerable and heartfelt content.

If you live in NYC, there is no reason for you not to partake in Shakespeare in the Park. Tickets are FREE. If you don’t want to wake up early and stand in line for tickets, then just do the virtual lottery.

So, yeah… that’s what I’ve been up to (theater-wise) the past couple months. I’m seeing tick… tick… BOOM in a couple weeks, but don’t really have solid plans besides that. I do hope to see King Lear at Shakespeare in the Park, and maybe a Broadway show or two. We’ll see!

Have a good one

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 🙂

This afternoon, I had a chance to see the Off-Broadway musical Little Miss Sunshine at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theatre.

 

Based off of the 2006 film of the same name, Little Miss Sunshine is the humorous, and at times heart-breaking, tale of the Hoover family’s weekend trip from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Redondo Beach, California so that nine-year-old Olive can compete in a pageant she qualified for while visiting relatives. What’s special about this family is that none of them are special in that they are dysfunctional and unglamorous just like the rest of us. Two parents, two kids, a formerly suicidal gay uncle and grandpa who abuses drugs travel in a barely running VW van on a long road trip. The dad is unemployed and desperate for a book deal for a 10-step motivational plan he keeps using on anyone who will listen. The son has taken a vow of silence until he can get into flight school. The daughter wears glasses, has a bit of a tummy, and is the antithesis of any girl you see on that Toddlers and Tiaras show. We laugh with them because we can relate to them. We laugh at them because it’s easier to laugh at their hardships than deal with our own.

 

Based on the cast and source material, I had high expectations going into this show and can honestly admit that they were met. Little Miss Sunshine wasn’t flawless, but isn’t that the point? With no act breaks or intermission, we are with the Hoovers every step of the way (or every mile they drive, rather), for better or worse.

 

I wondered how they were going to handle the family being in that VW van for a majority of the musical (for if you’ve seen the movie, you know that the van is a major set piece) and was enamored when six yellow chairs on wheels were rolled around the stage in formation to represent the van (said chairs also were used as chairs and beds). The actors basically Flinstoned themselves about the stage, but it didn’t seem silly – it was practical and believable. Those chairs were the van and those actors were the Hoover family.

 

The cast was very strong. I had seen Will Swenson, Rory O’Malley and Wesley Taylor on stage before, but it was great to see them in different roles than I was used to. I was most excited to see Stephanie J. Block, as she is a performer I had always wanted to see in person but had missed out on before.

 

Swenson and Block played Richard and Sheryl Hoover. They looked like parents – hell, they looked like my parents – and it was easy to believe that they had been together for awhile and were dealing with a lot of crap that adults don’t want to be dealing with on top of having two rambunctious children and live-in family members (her brother and his dad). The stress was written all over their faces, but so was the underlying love that ultimately kept the family together. Both Swenson and Block are strong actors with equally powerful vocals and it was a pleasure to see them act opposite each other. (Throughout the show I wondered why Will Swenson and Matt Bomer haven’t been cast as brothers in something. Someone needs to make this happen. Please and Thank You.)

 

O’Malley played Frank, Sheryl’s gay brother who had recently tried to slit his wrists because of relationship problems. This production delves a little deeper into Frank’s story than the movie did (with the addition of a couple scenes between Frank and his former lover, as well as Frank and his nephew) and the audience understands a little more (if not a little better) about why he did what he did and how he’s doing now. O’Malley was great, but I couldn’t help but think that he reminded me an awful lot of Jesse Tyler Ferguson for some reason… (I’ll blame the facial hair and how they have similar dialogue/lyric delivery).

 

David Rasche, an actor who I was not familiar with, played the grandpa (the role that won Alan Arkin a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in the film). He got a lot of laughs because the character is so inappropriate, but I also appreciated the bits of scenes where he was able to be serious. (I often say how I think comedic actors/roles are at their best during dramatic moments.)

 

Olive and Dwayne Hoover were played by Hannah Nordberg and Logan Rowland, respectively. Nordberg was a delight as Olive. I thought she projected well and definitely held her own on stage among the more seasoned actors. She had a great handle on the comedic moments, but also shined during Olive’s more dramatic scenes. Rowland was great as Dwayne. As Dwayne is silent for half the show, Rowland’s facial expressions and body language were vital in getting that character across and I thought he pulled it off. Dwayne was always one of (if not) my favorite character in the show and though his freak out was a little less underwhelming on stage, it still made an impact.

 

So, I mentioned Wesley Taylor earlier… he had a small role as Frank’s former boyfriend and as a surfer-esque dude who works at the pageant. Let’s just say my body was not ready to see his abs underneath his neon pink polo shirt, but his voice is just as stunning as I remembered it to be. (I saw him in The Addams Family when it premiered in Chicago a few years ago… “I’m Crazier Than You” was on repeat for awhile.)

 

Sadly the Playbill does not list the songs from the show, so I don’t know any of their names (and I’m too lazy to Google it right now…). BUT, I can say that the music was good and if there happens to be a soundtrack someday, I’d totally get it because the voices of these performers are top notch and the lyrics were solid. The group numbers were great, but I was a little Meh about the song Richard sang about his dad. That was just not the best sounding note for Swenson to end with, you know?

 

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that it ends right after the pageant. And if you remember the pageant… well, then you’ll be pleased with how the musical’s pageant ends too. I had a grin on my face that you couldn’t have smacked off.

 

When the show was over, our performance had a moderated Q&A with Stephanie J. Block. (I was unaware of this prior to being seated… there was a note in everyone’s Playbill.) Though she said a lot of “actor-y” things about finding her character and the different productions of the show leading up to this one, I still found it to be wholly enjoyable and informative. It was fun to hear her speak so highly of the show and her cast and it very much seemed that this was a labor of love for everyone involved. (I kind of ran into Block in the lobby after the show. I let her duck out the exit ahead of me and she told me to have a good night, so I told her that the show was great and she thanked me.)

 

If you liked the movie, then you’re sure to enjoy the musical. Little Miss Sunshine is playing at Second Stage Theatre (305 W 43rd St, New York, NY) through December 8, 2013.

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.

I should probably play the real lottery.

 

Yesterday, I submitted my name to the virtual lottery to get tickets for the Public Forum at the Delacorte Theater titled “What are we worth? Shakespeare, money and morals.” It was a one-night event where a handful of ridiculously talented and well known actors read monologues or performed a scene from several Shakespeare plays and then Harvard professor Michael Sandel led a public forum about money’s influence in society (more specifically creating market-based entities where there should/should not be).

 

Though I am not as well versed in my Shakespeare as I could be, I was hoping to see the event because when else would I get a chance to see Alan Alda or Matt Damon reading Shakespeare?

 

Well, needless to say, I won the lottery and my theater buddy friend and I ended up with fourth row tickets to this one night only event.

 

To put it simply, but not really so – the whole experience was interesting.

 

I couldn’t get over how great our seats were, but somehow I let myself just be in the moment.

 

The event was split into two halves, the first being the actors performing Shakespeare. After a brief introduction to the play and scene the actor(s) would be performing, said actor would come out on stage and do a dramatic (or comedic) reading of some passage that dealt with money (and usually some sort of corruption).

 

To be honest, of all the work that was performed, I had only ever seen/read Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice, but there were other plays that I actually never heard of (whoops). All the same, it didn’t really matter what the source was – it was the messages about money and the realities about how Shakespeare’s words still ring true today. I’m not going to say that he was ahead of his time… but I will say that it’s amazing how we are continuing to deal with the same financial woes he wrote of back in the day.

 

I actually found it really ironic to watch monetarily sound actors perform pieces about money troubles. It got even more interesting during the public forum part, but I’ll get to that later.

 

The first actor out on stage was Raul Esparza. I kept my flailing internal as I watched him perform some monologue from some play I hadn’t heard of. His character talked about how people having a lot of money was a sin, but eventually came around to the thought that he wouldn’t mid if he had a lot of money. While the words were powerful (oh, Shakespeare), I selfishly was just taking in Esparza and thinking about how grateful I was to be seeing him in person again (I saw him in Company years ago) and pinching myself that I’ll see him onstage next month in The Cradle Will Rock. He’s captivating and you kind of just have to watch him.

 

Next out on stage was Christine Baranski. Again, I knew not what play she was reading from, but her passage was about how money corrupts – how it is responsible for making and breaking religions and is the source of a lot of trouble, and yet it is just some small thing. (I mean, really – have you thought about that… money is a coin, or a piece of paper, or a plastic card. It’s an object on which we’ve placed so much importance that people and countries have been destroyed over or because of it.) It was a real thrill to see Baranski perform. Sure, it was just a monologue, but the woman has such a presence.

 

Alan Alda was next. He had, by far, the shortest monologue of the night. I honestly can’t tell you what he talked about because in that moment I was just a fan, gobsmacked by the fact that Hawkeye was 30 feet away from me.

 

Gloria Ruben performed next. I believe she performed something from The Tempest. I can’t remember what she said, but I know I clapped just as hard for her as everyone else. She’s another actor whose work I have respected for years and I just couldn’t believe I was sitting so close to the stage.

 

And then there was Vanessa Redgrave. Flawless woman is flawless. Ms. Redgrave performed both parts in the Romeo and Juliet scene where Romeo goes to the Apothecary to buy the vile of poison. The key lines that would be brought up later during the Forum were “It is my poverty and not my will that consents” and “I pay thy poverty and not thy will.” I was blown away by Ms. Redgrave’s performance for several reasons. Firstly, she was mostly off book. Though she held her script in her hands, she did not consult it much. Secondly, her script was in her hands and not a binder (like everyone else). Thirdly, she actually performed the scene. She walked out onto the stage as Romeo, looking for the Apothecary. She even shouted at one point, trying to get his attention. Watching her perform, you could kind of pretend she was both parts because she’s just that great. I was thrilled to be seeing her perform again, having seen her in The Revisionist Off-Broadway a few months ago. She’s one of those people who you can’t help but to admire and think is the bee’s knees.

 

And then, there were five.

 

The last performance of the night was a lengthy scene from The Merchant of Venice that featured the final five performers – Marsha Stephanie Blake, Lily Rabe, Jesse L. Martin, Matt Damon and Hamish Linklater. It was the scene where three suitors must choose between three caskets in order to marry Portia. One of the caskets is gold, one is silver and one is lead. Each casket has an inscription on it, and the correct casket has Portia’s likeness inside. The suitors who choose the wrong casket must give up their attempts to court Portia. One of the suitors is someone who Portia actually loves, so it’s a hot mess for a bit, as she’s worried someone else will choose the right casket. However, two of the suitors are assholes and are so selfish and greedy, that they (spoiler alert) pick the wrong caskets. So, it all works out in the end.

 

Jesse L. Martin played the Prince of Morocco, who chooses the gold casket that reads, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.” His rational is that many man desire Portia, ergo that is the correct casket. Martin was fun to watch, as he played his role with such arrogance but was wearing jeans and a beanie and looked exactly how I always thought he himself would look in person.

 

Matt Damon played the Prince of Arragon. Before he got up to read his part, he popped in a piece of gum and threw his gum wrapped on the ground near his chair. His prince smacked his gum, had an annoying laugh and was smug as hell. And while it was funny to see Damon’s creative choices, part of me wondered if he relied so heavily on the humor because Damon himself stuck out like a sore thumb among the performers. I’m not saying his performance was bad (because it wasn’t by any means), I’m just saying that everyone else on that stage has EXTENSIVE stage work behind them and performing in front of a few thousand people like that might not be his forte as much as film work is. That being said, it was a real treat to see Damon perform. He’s definitely someone I’ve always wanted to see perform in person some how, but I never thought I would get that opportunity.

 

Anyway, The Prince of Arragon chooses the silver casket that reads, “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.” Thinking he deserves Portia, he opens the casket to find he has chosen poorly.

 

And then there was Hamish.

 

Hamish Linklater played the third suitor, Bassanio. Portia wants him to pick the right casket and even offers to coach him on how to choose. He, however, asks to be allowed to pick the casket on his own and by doing so, he goes for the lead casket. Once he opens it, he is rewarded with Portia’s picture, as well as her hand. This scene is one of those morality tales about how just because something is fancy and shiny, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. Also, arrogant, selfish men do not always get what they want. I always have problems with these kinds of scenes because of how the men treat women like property to be won, but that’s a horse of a different color and I shan’t go on a tangent about gender inequality when the main focus of the night was money and morals.

 

It is an understatement when I write that I was smitten with Hamish Linklater (and his brief performance as Bassanio). He was the last actor to partake in the scene and it was fun to watch him watch the others. He legitimately cackled at some of Jesse L. Martin and Matt Damon’s shtick, but then wholly embodied Bassanio. As soon as he stood up to interact with Portia, my heart melted a lot. The way he was looking at her as she rambled was the kind of silent performance you see in the movies right as the music swells and true love conquers all. He looked at her like she was his everything and I wanted to switch places with her, if only for a few seconds. Linklater proceeded to dishevel himself while on stage. Hands ran through his hair, causing it to stick up even more that it already was, which looked appropriate as his shirt was wrinkled giving his overall appearance a rumpled look. I liked Bassanio in the movie, but I kinda liked him onstage too…

 

And with that, the acting portion of the evening was over.

 

Gears shifted slightly and Michael Sandel was introduced. Turns out he had Matt Damon as a student when Damon was at Harvard (which will come into play later) and he’s really good at public speaking. Sandel engaged the crowd in some spirited discussion and debate about the creation of a market economy in instances that might not need it. There were two prominent debates. One was whether there should be a sanctioned market for selling kidneys, the other was whether school kids should be given incentives (like money) to get good grades or read books.

 

Both discussions could be whittled down to the “Haves” and “Have Nots” debate. People were saying that if selling kidneys were legal, poor people would do it because they need money. (As in, it became less about consent and more about a financial need.) As for kids getting paid to get good grades and read, it was mentioned that kids who are more well off anyway are the ones who have better access to books (and the ability to read), or that paying a kid to read would take away their intrinsic want to read. Like, reading would be a chore to do to get money, and that later in life, if no one was going to be paying them, then why should they read?

 

There is likely no completely right or wrong answer to these debates, but I think the point was to get people talking. I love reading and have loved reading since I was a child. No one had to bribe me to read. Same goes with getting good grades. I never got paid for getting good grades – my “payment” was the promise that working hard in school would allow me to get into college and then have a good job. Now, SOME of that was true. (I did get into college with a bunch of scholarships and stuff and now have two degrees… but as for having a good job. Yeah, no. That was all lies.)

 

Later in the discussion, Sandel brought Damon up on stage and the two of them started talking baseball. They mused how back in the 70s, you could go see a game and bleacher seats would be a dollar and better seats were about $3.50. They said how everybody – regardless of social status – ate the same crappy stadium food, stood in line for the same bathroom and basically had the same ballpark experience. Then they commented how nowadays, it’s ridiculous how much money it costs to go see a baseball game and how bleacher seats cost a lot of money, but then there are skyboxes for those with money who have catered food and their own private bathrooms. The rich and the not so rich are no longer on an even keel at the ballpark, and it’s because of money. Enjoying America’s pastime will never be the same again because it costs an arm and a leg to attend a game, and because of monetary segregation groups of people are being left out.

 

Earlier I mentioned how it was really ironic watching these actors perform monologues and scenes about money and its effects on people and society. As someone who is basically living near the poverty line, it was a mind trip watching Matt Damon and Michael Sandel talk about monetary factors with regard to going to a baseball game. These guys have money. A lot of money. And they can likely go sit in a skybox whenever they want.

 

I always find it fascinating when people who have means talk about people who don’t, as it is frustrating and amusing at the same time (I equate it to watching old crusty male politicians talking about women’s rights issues…).

 

No questions really got answered at last night’s forum, but I think the whole point was to get people talking or at least thinking. For example – I have no money, but I often wonder if someday when I have money, if that would change me as a person. I sure hope not.

Last night was one of those magical NYC nights when I could forget about my woes for a couple hours and live out one of my life-long dreams of seeing Alec Baldwin on Broadway.

Those who know me best know that I have loved Alec Baldwin for a majority of my life. Ever since I was a little girl and I saw Beetlejuice, I was hooked. As I grew older, my love for Baldwin increased tenfold, with his hosting appearances on SNL, his role on 30 Rock and his performance in The Departed solidifying my epic love of this man.

Last night, I was fortunate enough to get a rush ticket for Orphans. 

I purposefully didn’t do any research on the play and didn’t read any reviews so I could go in fresh and a blank slate. 

That being said, I had unfairly high expectations because of my love of Alec Baldwin (and Ben Foster… jfc, I could write an Ode to Foster, whom I have been an epic fan of since Liberty Heights… do not even get me started how underused he was in X-Men: The Last Stand), but I was not disappointed.

Orphans is about two brothers, Treat (Foster) and Phillip (Tom Sturridge) who live alone and try to make ends meet. Treat is a petty thief and mugs people of their money and accessories to support his younger brother Phillip, who is a smart kid but has some sort of mental disorder. Phillip’s got a childlike nature about him and is quick to follow others, but is also capable of independent thought and action/reaction when given a chance.

One night, Harold (Baldwin) follows Treat home and passes out drunk. Treat discovers Harold has money and tries to use that wealth to get a ransom from his colleagues… but no one cares enough about Harold to pay it. 

Instead, Harold offers Treat a job working for him. Treat balks, saying he doesn’t work for anyone – let alone Harold (who keeps referring to Treat as “son”), but eventually he caves.

This play was really dark – both in comedic and dramatic aspects. The relationships between pairs of characters, as well as the surrogate father/sons aspect of the play were really fascinating.

It’s always intriguing to watch a pair or small group of men onstage because females (or lack thereof) still makes a huge impact on the story. (Treat and Phillip’s mom was dead, though her coats still hung in their front closet whereas Harold mentioned a woman back in Chicago.) There were a few “what would you do” and “you need to address your feelings” moments in the play that allowed Foster to shine on stage. I don’t know if I felt more moved by his performance because it was him or because of the arc his character had. It’s powerful watching someone descend into a completely broken state of vulnerability. 

I was not very familiar with Tom Sturridge (though reading through his bio, apparently I’ve seen a lot of his film work…), but I was equally impressed with his performance. He had the most physical role of anyone, as Phillip was often leaping onto furniture or the banister. He would crouch down to occupy a small amount of space or stretch out like a cat. He used his hands and fingers to imitate other people’s gestures and would change his voice to mimic those on TV or pretend he was someone else. (For some reason, he reminded me a lot of Andrew Garfield… )

And, of course, Baldwin. He seemed well suited for his role – very authoritative, but almost patronizingly so. He used his booming voice and firm demeanor to get what he wanted and charm Phillip. I was enamored right away (like Phillip) and could have used some “encouragement” but by the end of the show, I was more concerned with Treat than anyone else. 

This was a mind fuck of a play (pardon my French). It really had you all over the place, emotions-wise, but hit you in the feels more often than not. I didn’t cry (probably because I was still in shock from being in the same room as/seeing Alec Baldwin and Ben Foster), but  I definitely felt something as I was watching.

I was grateful for the opportunity to see this play and I will definitely be mulling over its meaning and themes. 

After the show, I went to the stagedoor. I was fortunate enough to be the first one there, so I got a good spot up front at the barricades. (Insert your own Les Mis joke in there if you must…) Though Ben Foster did not sign for anyone (sadness!), Alec Baldwin signed for some people… and I was lucky enough to get an autograph for myself and my sister (I was going to surprise her, but I already told her… we love Alec). 

I then escaped from the barricades and started walking toward the train, taking Shubert Alley as a shortcut when I saw a mass of people waiting outside the Booth for Bette Midler. So, I had some time – I joined them.

While waiting for Bette, JOE MANTELLO walked by me. (He directed Wicked, Assassins, Glengarry Glenn Ross, 9 to 5, The Other Place, Three Days of Rain, etc…) I almost shrieked – that’s how excited I was. But, I kept my cool (you don’t know how hard that was). And, then a few minutes later, Bette came out. I didn’t see her show, but I took a picture of her (she signed for a few people, but I was nowhere near her), but it was just really cool to see her in person!

And that was my night!

It’s little pockets of excitement like that that makes me love living here. I love live theater with every fiber of my being and I genuinely love and respect the craft of the people who make it. 

*sigh*

(Oh – I also saw Joy Behar in person yesterday and ended up walking next to her for a block while I was on my way up Broadway. She seemed nice – someone else recognized her too and said Hi – but I didn’t say anything.)

P.S. I guess I should address the whole Shia LaBeouf thing. Honestly, I couldn’t see him as Treat and was grateful the part was recast. Ben Foster was PERFECT for that role and has more of an older brotherly feel than I don’t think LaBeouf would have been able to pull off within the context of this play. That’s not to say he wouldn’t have been able to contribute something of value… I just think that Foster’s presence was a necessary part of why this play worked as well as it did.

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.