Review: 1984 (aka Timely AF)

Last Thursday Kristen and I went to see the London-transfer of 1984. I’ve never read the book but I heard it was incredibly timely and she had heard it a great production, so off we went. We had great seats in the center orchestra and we eagerly waited for the lights to dim.

I will admit that I was a little bit lost for the first twenty or so minutes. I didn’t fully comprehend that most of the play was a flashback. But when we went back in time and this frightening world of Big Brother and constant surveillance was revealed, it was intense. It did get a bit graphic in the latter part of the single-act piece and it was a full- blown sensory overload; with incredibly bright flashing lights and defeating sound design.

The line that resonated with me the most was the line that went “they didn’t see it coming; they didn’t look up from their screens.” BOOM. Yup, that’s what’s happening now. (I say as I type this on my iPhone.)

Reed Birney was excellent (as always) as O’Brien. Olivia Wilde did a good job, but she was nothing extraordinary. The rest of the (I’ll call it an ensemble) cast did an exceptional job of bringing this unfathomably weird story to life onstage as well.

I hope they tighten it up a bit while it’s in previews. It’s listed as an hour-45 online but it was almost two hours in reality and it was a little slow at times, to be honest. But I think given the current state of our country, a refresher of 1984 is appropriate. So hopefully we WILL look up from our screens should we need to.

Oh, and props must be given where they are due. The social media team for 1984 is killing it. Both of our Instagram postings were found, scoured, and creepy stalker comments were left under our photos. Good job, kids.

This is what being Patrick Bateman means to me. 

J and I went to see American Psycho on Tuesday night (remember when I waited on line in the freezing cold for like way-too-long?) and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d listened to the London cast recording a bunch of times on Spotify and loved a lot of what I’d been hearing, but who knows how it would transfer, right?

I’ve been lurking on the American Psycho Previews thread on BroadwayWorld and the buzz was that the first act was amazing but the second act dragged. I was excited to see how they’d handle the chunks of the book that included the mass murders of numerous prostitutes and how much blood, exactly, would be on that stage. I’d also heard the opening moment of the show was amazing. I was really excited but trying to keep my expectations low, anyways. 

Spoilers ahead!

The opening moment WAS cool. The stage was filled with smoke and there was screaming, but I wanted it to be more frightening. (Maybe they’ll up the scares during previews.) For those of you who saw the cast perform on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last week, well, Benjamin Walker is only in tighty-whiteys and looks like he’s eaten nothing but protein shakes since then. He looks good. He describes his morning routine and then the song Selling Out starts.   

I know Selling Out wasn’t in the London production and I have no idea how the show must’ve felt without it. It sets the feel for the entire show. These are a bunch of empty, shallow (albeit extremely well-dressed and good looking) people who care about all the wrong things and are extremely annoying.

I digress. Cards was the next great song. Theo Stockman is playing a completely different character from who he has played in the past (Hair, American Idiot) as the obnoxious colleague of Bateman’s Tim Price. J burst into a laughing fit as soon as he spoke his first lines because his voice is just that ridiculous. Another stand out was Drew Moerlein in his Broadway debut as another one of Bateman’s colleagues Paul Owen. He was as smug and overly expressive in that douchey way that only an investment banker on Wall Street can be. 

You Are What You Wear was an introduction to the women who (sometimes) occupy these men at night. Helene Yorke as Evelyn (Bateman’s girlfriend) and Morgan Weed as Courtney (Evelyn’s friend) outshine every other female on that stage with their comedic timing and portrayals of these socialites. I don’t think Yorke opened her mouth a single time that wasn’t answered with laughter from the audience.

Side note: Jennifer Damiano plays Bateman’s secretary, Jean, the same way she always plays her roles (Next to Normal being the exception). That said, she didn’t disappoint. Alice Ripley plays Bateman’s mother in addition to two other small roles and she’s great. She’s supposed to be a heavily medicated mother which she’s done before and won for a Tony for it, so: this is basically a walk in the park. 

The pre-written songs that Sheik wove into the show were seamless and worked without question. Everybody Wants to Rule the World and In the Air Tonight (this one sounded exceptionally spectacular) fit right in, as does Hip To Be Square at the end of the first act. 

The score is so very 80′s and it’s so much fun. Not a Common Man was one of my favorite songs of the first act and I Am Back and This Is Not an Exit were definitely my favorite in the second act. I had I Am Back in my head all day yesterday. 

There are LOTS of projections used in the show. And there are two turntables on the stage. Even though Les Miserables is referenced over and over (it was the hot thing in 1989!), the turn tables don’t make it feel like we’re watching Les Miserables at all. Don’t worry. Donald Trump is also referenced probably a dozen times, too, since he was a big thing especially to Wall Street douchebags. Trump is referenced three times as much in the book though. The producers couldn’t have picked a more appropriate time to transfer American Psycho to New York with this reference intact. 

So, the gore. There’s not a lot of blood in Act 1. He kills his first person at the end of Act 1 and there’s a decent amount of blood on the plastic scrim. I was really curious as to how they would get through all of the people he murders in the book and they handled it perfectly. Patrick Bateman has really loses his mind by Act 2 and after trying to clear it with a trip to the Hamptons accompanied by Evelyn, he returns to Manhattan (I Am Back) and goes on a killing spree. There’s lots of blood on people and the walls for this. Imagine a pile of dead bodies center stage and that’s how this song ends. It was a perfect way to get through a good 100 pages of the book that describe how he murders dozens of people.

Oh, and the sex. There’s a silly, but hysterical scene in Act 1 with simulated sex between two prostitutes and Bateman with ridiculous projections. I read that lots of people hated this but by the time the end of Act 1 rolls around, you’ve already forgotten it’s happened because you’re enjoying the rest of it so much.

The audience was largely a theatre crowd. You could tell that they hadn’t read the book because they gasped when Bateman invites Jean to his apartment before they see a show. She doesn’t die in the book and she doesn’t even have much of a role in the movie, so they would never have killed her off in this adaptation.

Benjamin Walker was so, so good. He’s a playing a character who is a genuinely bad person but I felt sorry for him at times, especially when he was being ignored. All Bateman wants is to fit in and he feels invisible; that’s just sad. He has a much better voice, in my opinion, than Matt Smith does and I hope they plan to record this soon (as far as I know, they don’t). 

It clocked in at 2 hours and 45 minutes, which is long, but the book is 400 pages and a vast majority of it is in Bateman’s mind. When he’s really losing coherence in Act 2, there’s a lot of dialogue to try to express this. He’s covered in blood, dressed in his tighty whiteys and he realizes there’s no way out (This Is Not An Exit). It’s a heavy second act, though I’m not sure what you could cut to make it shorter. 

You could say this is a representation of how society in America completely ignore mental illness if said-mentally ill person has an outward appearance that satisfies us. Even if that person tells us they’re going out of their minds and want to kill people, we’re more likely to say, “great joke!” than take it seriously. Bateman’s pleas for help are ignored by his friends and family. 

To say I had a good time at American Psycho is an understatement. Is it a perfect show? No. Is it for everyone? No. I could imagine the New York Times panning it’s non-traditional but I hope word-of-mouth and the cult following that the book and movie have can make it a hit. 

There was a great energy inside the theatre on Tuesday night and I hope they can sustain the momentum they’ve been building and take your average Broadway audience by surprise.

This Is How All The Bret Easton Ellis Novels Fit Together

Someone posted this recently and I was super intrigued. I would think that there are probably other writers out there who have done this but the only one that I’ve read that comes to mind is Emily Giffin. Giffin’s characters are somewhat related in three of her books, but how Ellis put characters from one book into another who supposedly were killed by Bateman in American Psycho is super cool. It actually made me want to read all of his books. But.

BUT.

I’m currently reading American Psycho…. and it’s a painful read. Bateman and his friend’s shallow materialism and his need to identify where every last item on his person came from is dreadful. I’ve been reading it for a couple of weeks now and I’m only 160 pages in (out of 400-ish). I’m starting to lose hope that I’ll finish it. But I think I have to. i know that I’m not required to finish every book I start but I like to. We’ll see what happens.

In other news: American Psycho the musical is getting pretty good reviews from regular people. I know it’s going to be a super polarizing show (not every one will like a musical about a banker who’s going insane and killing his friends) but I read that the first look you get in the show is amazing and so far everything is impressive. Currently it’s super long (just under 3 hours) but I’m sure they’ll cut it down a bunch before April 5th.

Has anyone else read American Psycho? 

This Is How All The Bret Easton Ellis Novels Fit Together

$19.89 Tickets to American Psycho

I’ve been sort of excited to see American Psycho ever since I saw the video of their press preview. The music sounds different, the choreography looks fun, and who doesn’t love Benjamin Walker? I sure do. So, when it was sort of quietly announced that they were selling tickets for $19.89 (for the year 1989 when the play takes place) for six preview performances, I was instantly interested in heading down on a Saturday morning. I’d mentioned it to Matt a couple of days prior at Eclipsed and he said sure, let’s do it

We met up at 9:30am on Saturday morning to a line that went down 45th Street to 7th Avenue and turned towards 44th Street. We got on the line right as it turned onto 7th so we figured there were probably 100 people in front of us and it shouldn’t be too bad of a wait since the box office was opening in 30 minutes.

Did we ever misjudge the situation. The line took FOREVER. We didn’t buy our tickets until 12:45pm. Also: it was freezing. It was something like 32* out and I was wearing really inappropriate shoes. We took turns hopping into Junior’s and the Booth Theatre’s lobby to keep warm because I’m not lying when I say it was really fucking cold.

They’d really made shitty usage of the box office. I honestly don’t think they were expecting this many people to show up. They could’ve fit probably two dozen people in it but with the way they chose to wrap the line, there were 5 people inside of it at a time. When we finally were standing under the marquee, when it was fairly obvious what we were waiting for, I started telling passerby that we were waiting in line for tickets to a Trump rally. They believed us, no questions asked, and we died laughing.

We purchased our orchestra seats for the preview performance on April 5th and happily made our way to our respective homes and warmed up. It was worth it this time, but I will never do this again in the winter. 

I finished reading Revenge Wears Prada, the sequel to The Devil Wears Prada, late last week. I was skeptical and it took me a couple of chapters to get into it, but once I did I was off and reading non-stop. It’s great chick lit. 

Andy Sachs has a fairytale life: we meet her again ten years after she quits Runway on the morning of her wedding to the most eligible bachelor in New York City. She edits and owns a successful upscale bridal magazine with none other than her former arch nemesis Emily Charlton. All is well until Elias-Clark and Miranda Priestly herself approaches them to buy their magazine.

I thought the ending was kind of cheesy, but overall I really enjoyed the novel and I hope they turn it into a movie. 

I spent most of Friday evening finishing off Lucy Sykes’ and Joe Piazza’s novel The Knockoff. I couldn’t put it down. It’s such fluff, such chicklit. But it was enthralling. I think this book got a lot of press over the summer, but as per usual, I’m a few months late to the game, but better late then never. 

I loved this book and would recommend it to any lady who needs some entertaining, brainless fun to read. 

Now onto ”The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” which I’m told will 100% make me want to get rid of 90% of my books. Hopefully not!

A couple of weeks ago I saw an early preview performance of Doctor Zhivago, a new musical currently playing at the Broadway Theatre. I knew nothing about it except that the lead (Tam Mutu) was out, his understudy(Bradley Dean) was flung in on a moment’s notice, and it was based on a dense (of course) Russian novel.

And it was three hours long. WOOT!

I was told it was about a love triangle – or something like that – and it was. Doctor Zhivago runs into a blonde woman who takes his breath away, of course he’s also on his way to his own wedding to an equally as lovely brunette. Isn’t that the way it always works? The show starts when Russia was still the Soviet Union (or at least somewhere in the first few decades of the 20th Century) and continues on until the revolution is over. 

It’s a great historical piece. I learned a lot from it – well, whatever in it was historically accurate. But my goodness, it is long. Doctor Zhivago and the blonde woman sing no less than four songs about how they should be together, etc. etc. and although the score is quite pretty (think Tale of Two Cities meets Scarlet Pimpernel), it’s tiresome. By that four song, I’m like, “Okay, well, GO. Be together!” 

I read the synopsis of the novel afterward and they even cut a lot of book out. Like, a LOT. But the musical is STILL dense. There are tons of characters and it takes itself very seriously, where as, say, The Great Comet of 1812 did not (it even poked fun at itself in the very first song). The cast is uniformly lovely and talented. Bradley Dean kicked some serious ass in this monster of a role that he probably had a few days rehearsal in. 

I’m interested to see how it’s received on Broadway and how it does at the box office. (Spoiler alert: the critics did not review it well last night.)

I’d been really slow with getting around to see the newest revival of Les Miserables. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that I was seeing another revival? Oh wait, yes, it was. And listening to the monstrosity that was Nikki James’ voice on the Tonys, I wanted to wait until she was out. BUT I saw this production last Saturday afternoon and I loved it. Still. I saw Les Miserables three or four times as a kid and it was one of my first “favorite” shows. I was looking forward to seeing the new staging but also worried. Les Miserables without a turn table?! WHAT?!

They’ve taken the show and made it a bit more like the movie. But don’t worry – it still clocks it at around 3 hours. I was sort of dreading seeing a three-hour show, because… 90-minutes-no-intermission is the standard for new shows these days so we’ve been spoiled. But I had no trouble sitting through Les Miserables in all of it’s depressing and humorous glory. The cast brought many tiny nuances that I don’t remember noticing from the last production(s) which brought it more to life for me.

Ramin Karimloo, who stole everyone’s heart in the 25th anniversary concert at Marius, was fantastic at Jean Valjean. Except that he looked like a Backstreet Boy in the first few scenes. If he was in jail for 19 years, he went into jail when he was about 5. His voice is fantastic, his acting was fantastic, and he is ripped so they used whatever opportunity they could find to have him take his shirt off – which was very odd for a Valjean to do, but we suffered through.

Nikki M. James, I’m happy to report, only sounds like a bag of dying cats during what you saw on the Tonys (One Day More). Otherwise she’s playful and endearing, and her On My Own is great.

Cassie Levy was fantastic as Fatine. It’s such a small role so that’s unfortunately but I love her and her voice. She is just beautiful and amazing. That’s all I can say.

Keala Settle and Cliff Saunders as the Thenardiers were hilarious, as they should be. No complaints.

Earl Carpenter as Javert, joining Broadway from the London production, was great too. He did was Javert was supposed to do and he didn’t sound like Russell Crowe. We were happy campers.

As much as theatre snobs like myself usually hate projections, they were used sparingly and really added a lot to the show. I thoroughly enjoyed this 3-hour tour-de-france and I could do it again and again if you asked me to.

Put your theatre snobbyness aside, get over the loss of the turntable, and go.

Last night Kristen and I took in a performance of Act One at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre. Adapted from Moss Hart’s autobiography of the same name by James Lapine, Act One told the story of Moss Hart’s upbringing in the theatre. I haven’t read the book yet but I think I’ve seen a few copies lying around the office so I’ll have to borrow it soon. 

Santino Fontano was young Hart and he was fabulous, as he usually is. Tony Shalhoub was excellent as an older Moss Hart and the exceedingly strange George Kaufman. Andrea Martin was hilarious and heartwarming as Moss’ aunt (who is basically responsible for his life in the theatre) and Kaufman’s wife. And who doesn’t love an a supporting role played by the marvelous Chuck Cooper? Yeah, not a soul.

Albeit it being a bit long (it was almost 3 hours), it was an educating and entertaining night at the theatre that any theatre aficionado should make a point to see this season. 

Tickets were provided by the production but not in exchange for any review. 

Last week I was invited to see A Time To Kill, the new drama based on the novel by John Grisham and adapted by Rupert Holmes. I knew very little about it, other than the fact that Sebastian Arcelus and Tonya Pinkins were in it and that it was a courtroom drama. I invited my dad because he’d actually read the book many years ago and likes John Grisham.

To say the least: I loved it. It was about a man (John Douglas Thompson) who hires a very unseasoned lawyer (Sebastian Arcelus) to represent him after he kills, in front of the court house, the men who raped and brutalized his 9 year old daughter. This being Mississippi, and the defendant being black and the slaughtered being white, it was going to be a nearly-impossible case to win.

It held my attention through out two full-length acts and the performances were fantastic. Little did I know that I was seeing a bunch of stars onstage too. The story was so gripping and absolutely compelling. I held my breath when the verdict was being announced.

Among the cast was actor and former senator Fred Thompson who appropriately played the judge for the case with strength and conviction. Patrick Page as the district attorney was tough and charming, if not a little arrogant. Seasoned actor Tom Skerritt played the always-inebriated Lucien Wilbanks with humor and sympathy. A personal favorite of mine was Ashley Williams, who I recognized from Something Borrowed, played the assistant to Arcelus with a quick tongue and a marvelous knowledge of prior law cases. 

And then there’s Sebastian Arcelus. An actor who I first saw onstage in 2002 when he was understudying the role of Roger in Rent. In later years I saw him in Good Vibrations and then Wicked, but he never quite got to show off his acting skills like he does in this play. He played the role of the defense attorney Jake Brigance with conviction and determination and such depth. I was really blown away. 

Holme’s storytelling combined with direction by Ethan McSweeney, lest we not forget this fantastic cast, make for an excellent night at the theatre.