Oh, Hello! (aka We Laughed So We Wouldn’t Cry.)

image

Little did Kristen and I know that when we purchased our tickets to Oh, Hello! how much we would need a laugh that night. It was the day after the election and we were in shock, like much of the country. I’d been told that it was about two old guys talking about theatre for 90 minutes. I thought this sounded great – like The Drowsy Chaperone minus the plot line with Sutton Foster. Just perfect. 

I have to say, we laughed our asses off. The irreverent, inappropriate humor written by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney was just what was necessary to end such a depressing day. Now before you come at me and ask why it’s OK for a Broadway show to include crude and somewhat-racist humor but not our President-Elect, I’ll tell you: These comedians weren’t (and aren’t) running for president of one of the most powerful countries in the world. Thank you very fucking much.

It’s the day after the election and Donald Trump has just won. LET THAT SINK IN.

I can’t remember any of the jokes now, and I’m pretty sure at least 50% of the show is improvised. They commented on the election apologizing in advance to people who thought they’d have a night of escapism after it, but no such luck. They categorized the audience as theatre nerds, New Yorkers, tourists, and “old men who haven’t admitted to their wives who they’d voted for yet.” They played two old men who shared an apartment on UWS, one of whom is a “Tony Award-viewing playwright.” 

I had no idea that there was a special guest that they interview each night, but there was and it was Geraldo Rivera, who is a friend of Trump’s and it was perfect. 

I had no idea what kind of humor I was getting myself into when I walked into the theatre that night but I’m sure glad I walked in because I needed it. Mulaney and Kroll were fucking incredible at improv comedy, and acting, too. I hope to see them again onstage in the near future. 

This is the one show on Broadway that had me walking away thinking, “You know, I really want to see that AGAIN,” because I’m sure it’s different every night. As are all shows, because that’s what’s so amazing about the theatre. 

I’d heard that The Humans, written by Stephen Karam and currently at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre off-Broadway, was fantastic and I knew it was transferring. Once Kristen reminded me that it wasn’t closing until January 3rd, I went to see last Wednesday’s matinee in a general rush ticket ($27) as the student rush was $50 (wtf?). The difference between the two seats was the student rush ticket was unobstructed while the general rush ticket was in the last row of the orchestra and thus the mezzanine overhang made it a little difficult to see the top floor of the set.

This play reminded me a bit of the movie Pieces of April as in a “Thanksgiving Gone Wrong” plot. Brigid (Sarah Steele) just moved in with her boyfriend Richard (Ariian Moayed) and Sarah’s family is coming to spend Thanksgiving with them in their unfurnished, barely-moved-into apartment. There were the usual witty lines of dialogue that inspired lots of laughter from the audience and it got serious and depressing in the last 1/3 of the script. Truths are revealed and Thanksgiving dinner is ended early.

Moayed mentions in the early part of the play that there’s a comic which takes place from the perspective of monsters and how all of their horror stories have humans as their monsters. Brigid’s mom (Jayne Houdyshell) and her sister Aimee (Cassie Beck) can hardly believe that would ever be the case as humans are basically not capable of such horror-inducing acts. By the end of the play, we know this isn’t true.

It felt like a horror/thriller movie towards the end when a couple of random items are knocked over and a door closed by itself. I’m not sure what Karam’s intentions were by adding those subtleties to the script. Their grandmother, “Momo” (Lauren Klein), is not well and basically catatonic throughout the entire play. I’d like to think the supernatural element of the script had something to do with her character, but honestly, I’m really not sure. 

Overall I really enjoyed it. I don’t see this being very popular on Broadway, but it’ll be good exposure for Sarah Steele and Reed Birney (who played her father). The cast executed the layered script as best they could; there were no weak links. With no big names and being a not altogether feel-good script, I’m interested to see what this does when it transfers. 

So, you have heard about this debacle last Wednesday night. As it turned out, Matt had invited me to see Shows For Days with him the following night and oh, was it a treat to be at that performance. Patti came out in street clothes before the show and addressed the audience as herself, to much applause and support.

And then the show started.

It was a semi-autobiographical story about Douglas Carter Beane’s early days in community theatre in Pennsylvania. It was full length – two acts – though it didn’t feel long at all. It was entertaining and somewhat predictable at times. 

It was lovely to see Michael Urie onstage again as Car (Beane’s character) ad of course, who doesn’t love a good diva performance by Patti Lupone? No one, that’s who. Also in the cast were Dale Soules, Zoe Winters, Lance Coadie Williams, and Jordan Dean. 

There were lots of laughs and maybe a tear or two at the end. If nothing else, Shows For Days is a lovely piece of theatre history. 

Everyone here knows that Adam Rapp is one of my favorite playwrights. i’ve seen 99% of his work that’s been produced in the city since I saw Red Light Winter in 2006. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make his reading/talkback/signing about The Hallway Trilogy at the Drama Book Shop today, but luckily we packed it in at a decent hour at work and I ran two blocks over.

He’s very visibly not entirely comfortable speaking in public, which is expected because he’s a playwright, not an actor. He looked down most of the time, avoiding eye contact. He read a short passage with the woman from the Theater Communication Group from The Hallway Trilogy, answered several questions about the genres he writes about, the characters he often writes, and a few questions about The Hallway Trilogy itself.

Then Nick Lawson and the actress whose name I can’t remember came up (there was actually a number of cast members from the off-Broadway production a few years ago in attendance) and read part of a scene from Paraffin (the second in the trilogy). Afterward he took more questions and I asked if he will ever write for Broadway, knowing that he’s turned down Broadway before because it’s not where his audience is. He said he’s turned down Broadway twice and since the New York Times is not a big fan of his, he doesn’t think there are any producers who’d take a chance on him anytime soon. (He jokingly said that he needs to wait for new critics to come to the Times.)

Afterward he signed copies of his plays so I bought a copy of The Hallway Trilogy (because it’s an awesome body of literature, duh), asked him a few questions about Red Light Winter on screen (he hopes they’ll start filming in January), shook his hand, and headed out. 

Did you know that Venus in Fur had been translated into a movie? And one in French, nevertheless? Me neither. But it was directed by Roman Polanski and starred his wife in the role of Vanda. I love this play and I was super excited to see the movie translation. 

At Symphony Space on the UWS tonight, I had the opportunity to see a small screening of this film that came out at last year’s Cannes. The screening was followed by a talkback with playwright and screenwriter David Ives (pictured above, on the right). I really enjoyed the movie – it very closely followed the script. I will admit that I was wishing the entire time that it was Nina Arianda on screen, but what can you do. And that’s not to say that Emmanuelle Seigner was bad, at all. I just love Arianda.

Afterwards Ives talked about the collaboration with Polanski on writing the film (him and his wife just spent a few weeks in Switzerland with Polanski and his wife). He talked about the first, very brief message that Polanski ever left on his answering machine. He talked about the subtitles being a mess at first and then he took questions from the audience.  There was a lot of inquiry having to do with the ambiguousness of the theatre and how that gets a little bit less-so with a film. At one point he said, “Nobody is real onstage. Everyone is a metaphor for something else.” I thought that was kind of brilliant.

It’s a great film. I highly recommend it. 

PS: David Ives is currently working with Stephen Sondheim on a new musical. So, there’s that. 

Broadway’s The Big Knife Will Star Marin Ireland, Richard Kind, Adam Rapp and Bobby Cannavale; Full Cast Announced

I can’t tell you how excited I want to read this yesterday. My favorite playwright…. ACTING… in a play?!… on BROADWAY?! Sign me up. Plus Marin Ireland? Here’s my money, Roundabout. Just take it now.

I wonder how Rapp will be onstage. He’s always avoided having his plays staged on Broadway (he’s been quoted as saying that his audience is the off-Broadway type), so his leap to ACT on Broadway is astonishing. I hope he’ll be great. Let’s be honest, he probably will be. 

And even if he’s not, I’ll love him onstage anyways. 

Broadway’s The Big Knife Will Star Marin Ireland, Richard Kind, Adam Rapp and Bobby Cannavale; Full Cast Announced