Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Weekend in review (11/11-11/12/2011): Suicide, Incorporated / Morgan Karr / Bonnie & Clyde / Wild Animals You Should Know

I felt like crap this weekend, but I like to think I can separate that from my opinions about the shows I saw. But, you know, full disclosure and all that.

So, yay for a three-day weekend. And OF COURSE Lisa and I used that to go to New York. Full reviews to come, but I'm tired of being so thoroughly behind, so I'm going to start doing these quick weekend reviews in addition to coming back for full reviews later. So these will be for general impressions and recommendations and then (I hope) I'll be able to go back and dig in for the reviews later.

Anyway, here's what I saw:
First up was the latest offering from Roundabout Underground, a program I really love. This is the group's black box space and they use it to foster young artists. So far their biggest success seems to be Stephen Karam, so a big YAY for that. I really like Speech & Debate, and I love Sons of the Prophet (which started at the Huntington in Boston and is now in Roundabout's Pels theater, their larger off-Broadway space, upstairs from the Underground--so Karam is literally moving up in the world).

Right, so the new Underground show is Suicide, Incorporated. I was achy and exhausted, and the theater was overly warm, so I was not at my best as an audience member. Still, I think the show needs to pick up the pace. I was itching to leave toward the end, even though a couple of the performances are excellent. (HOLY CRAP, James McMenamin.) I think the idea of the play is intriguing: a company that helps people write their suicide notes. It's interesting to think about how companies prey on desperate people, how people can learn the wrong lessons from personal tragedy, and how little effort it might take to nudge someone onto or off of the right track. The play isn't as funny or insightful as it seems to thinks it is, and in addition to the production needing better pacing, the play could use some trimming. Still, not bad, and I'm glad I managed to fit it in (more in retrospect than while I was fidgeting in my overly tall seat).

Then I saw Spring Awakening alumnus Morgan Karr's concert at the newly renovated Joe's Pub. In general, I think I like the new space, though I did not like sitting near the new door to the kitchen, which was louder than it should be. The new bathrooms are plentiful. The whole Public Theater is a mess of construction right now, but I think it's moving in the right direction.

Karr is determined to be a pop star, and he certainly has the voice and the drive for it. He has surrounded himself with talented supporting artists, and he goes balls-to-the-wall out on stage. His songwriting isn't my favorite style, but DAYUM that boy can sing. And he put on a SHOW. So go see him when you get a chance. And his 11:11 wish thing is pretty charming, even though his 11/11/11 show started barely before midnight (not his fault).

Next up was the new musical Bonnie & Clyde. I will have very, very much to nitpick about it. For now, I'll just say that for a show filled with so much shooting, it really misses the mark. (Yeah, I'm sure I'm neither the first nor the last to make that super-lame observation.) It's not bad exactly, but it's not good. I was hoping it would be great or hilariously awful, but it is neither. And it isn't shockingly mediocre the way Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Catch Me if You Can are. It just fails to be good. The sound and projections and costuming and design are excellent. The fault lies with the material. The music is pretty forgettable other than about three good songs. And the entire focus of the show is wrong. There are such talented people up on stage, a famous real-life story, and so much potential relevance in this economic climate and culture of fame worshiping. So it's so disappointing for the musical to be so not right. Alas. Also, Laura Osnes has such a beautiful voice, but this is the third show I've seen her in and SHE CANNOT ACT. Just ... NO.

Rounding out the trip was the new off-Broadway play Wild Animals You Should Know, which I think had just started previews that week. I liked it. The performances are very good, as you would expect from Tony Winner Alice Ripley (Next to Normal) and Patrick Breen (the Normal Heart), but really there isn't a weak link in the cast (plus Jay Armstrong Johnson and John Behlmann are so very, very pretty). There are interesting ideas (alas not particularly well explored). Basically, it's fine off-Broadway fare, but nothing that is likely to stick with me for a long time. And the MCC needs new seats like whoa.

While I was at Suicide, Incorporated, Lisa saw Other Desert Cities and really liked it. I'm looking forward to seeing it next weekend.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Out-of-town adventures

After being MIA (read: in bed, sick) for over a month, I am finally back on the blog. (A)live, from San Diego! I tend to plan much of my continental travel around concerts or theater. So I'm here in this lovely city with my lovely husband to cross a musical off my bucket list: The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O'Brien at the Old Globe.

What makes this adventure even better is that the show stars several actors I love. I'm most excited about the casting for Brad: Kelsey Kurz, whom I loved in Sons of the Prophet in Boston (I'm looking forward to seeing the play again off-Broadway, this time with Santino Fontana in Kurz's role). Janet is Jeanna de Waal, formerly of American Idiot on Broadway. Eddie is Andrew Call, who was fantastic in the American Idiot ensemble and whom I also saw as a St. Jimmy understudy. And the musical's lead attraction, Dr. Frank N. Furter, is Matt McGrath, whom I saw recently in a Pinter play at the Atlantic Theater and who was quite good in the dreadful Nightingale workshop at Powerhouse over the summer.

So I'm very excited to see a new city and a bucket-list musical. More later!