Review: The Sound Inside (Roundabout)

Two weeks I finally, finally, finally got around to seeing The Sound Inside at Studio 54.

Adam Rapp has been one of my favorite playwrights – if not my absolute favorite – since 2006 when I saw his play Red Light Winter at the Barrow Street Theatre. I’m sure I’ve talked about this all before on here in prior reviews of shows of his but I just love his writing. I can almost never pinpoint what he’s trying to say but I love how he writes and how his characters talk. I really grasped onto one of the themes of Red Light Winter (although I’d yet to ever travel to Amsterdam, and I wasn’t a prostitute, etc.) and I was a fan ever since.

Yes, if you must know, I knew who Adam Rapp was because I was a fan of his brother initially. But after Red Light Winter, I was a fan of his solely for his writing talents.

Anyways, Rapp had been quoted a few times saying that producers had approached him to mount his pieces on Broadway but he’d always refused their offers because his audience was downtown. Totally valid, and probably true given the content of some of (most of) his stuff.

But when it was announced that a play he wrote would be produced by Roundabout Theatre Company and be on Broadway at Studio 54, I was giddy. AND it was starring Mary Louise Parker? Things just kept getting better. Well, I finally saw it after it opened and I made sure not to read anything about the show. I wanted to go in with a fresh mind.

I sat down in my seat in the front mezzanine and waited for the lights to go down.

It began with a monologue from Mary Louise Parker, who played an accomplished 53-year-old Yale professor named Bella Baird. It was sardonic, dry, and comedic. Everything that I love about Adam Rapp’s writing. You could tell she was over her job.

After her monologue, she is soon visited by a fellow misfit student from one of her classes, Christopher Dunn (the lovely and captivating Will Hochman), who doesn’t use email and refuses to make an appointment like everyone else. He begins to share his novel with Bella and they grow closer and closer over the next 80 or so minutes. You never know where their relationship is going to go and I won’t spoil it here. Towards the end of the play, Bella enlists Christopher to help her with the ultimate task after she learns she has advanced-stage cancer (which, spoiler alert, he doesn’t).

Spoiler: A friend told me a theory she’d heard from another friend that Christopher actually doesn’t exist and a multitude of reasons why. I tweeted this theory and Rapp liked it, but he didn’t confirm or deny, so that was helpful.

I was on the edge of my seat most of the play, trying to guess what would happen, but I wasn’t really sure why. I liked both of the characters, a lot, but it’s not like I was dying for them to get together.

This isn’t for everyone, sure, but I really liked it and I’m happy that Roundabout didn’t water Rapp down for Broadway audiences. As per usual, Adam Rapp produced a masterclass in foreboding drama and I loved every second of it.

Review: Marvin’s Room @ Roundabout

My friend Matt and I went to see Roundabout’s revival of Marvin’s Room, by Scott McPherson, staring Janeane Garofalo and Lili Taylor, at the American Airlines Theatre last weekend. Matt told me it was about death. Yippee. We’d seen Garofalo onstage once before, years ago when she was in The New Group’s “The Russian Transport” (also an uplifting piece) so we had optimistic expectations.

Lili Taylor is Bessie, a woman taking care of her bed-ridden father with her elderly aunt Ruth, living in Florida, and her life, as you can imagine, is difficult, and it only gets worse when she’s diagnosed with leukemia. After she’s in remission, her sister Lee (Garofalo) comes to visit with her two children, Hank and Charlie (played by Jack DiFalco and Luca Padovan, respectively). Hank also happens to be on leave from his stay at a “looney bin” (their words) after burning his family’s house down.

To say Marvin’s Room is depressing is an understatement of epic proportions. Bessie and Lee try to revive their sisterly relationship and Bessie connects better with Hank than his mother ever could have. Garofalo is very good – she gets the job done. And although I’ve enjoyed Lili Taylor onscreen in the past, the stage is not her sweet spot. DiFalco and Padvocan, the sons, were probably the highlight for me, as well as Celia Weston (Bessie’s aunt Ruth).

I’m not sad I saw this, but you should definitely know how depressing it is before you head into the theatre. Just so that your expectations are tempered enough.

Sweat, by Lynn Nottage

A couple of weekends ago I saw SWEAT, the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Lynn Nottage, on Broadway. I had no idea what it was about but I’d heard everything from “weird” to “intense.” It was no at all what I was expecting. It was about a group of friends in the factor town of Reading, PA and how they’re adversely affected by NAFTA. Could it be more timely? I think not. Anyways, here’s my brain dump on it:

This piece reminded me a lot of Clyborne Park, probably because of the timeline of the plot. Clyborne Park took place in two different decades and although Sweat switched between past and present, both pieces used time jumps to show how things have declined in their respective neighborhoods.

Sweat was the perfect representation of racism in America, especially after there are layoffs and people who look like immigrants are hired because said-immigrants are desperate for higher paying jobs. The promotion of one of the African American member of the primary group of friends also brings out her friend’s true colors (“they get tax breaks because she’s a minority”).

The ensemble cast was ace, with not a weak link onstage from where I was sitting, and these characters go for a ride on a very emotional rollercoaster. Shitty acting would’ve made this unwatchable.

There’s excellent writing onstage at Studio 54 to bring to life something that’s very current. It’s over two hours, but it flies. It’s playing through June 4th.

Pre-Thanksgiving Fun @ The Cherry Orchard 

I couldn’t think of a more appropriate play to take in before the Thanksgiving holiday than The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. I knew it was be pretty dry, but the cast sounded too great to pass up. I showed up to the American Airlines Theatre last Wednesday around 2pm and took my seat in the last row of the orchestra. 

I read the description in the Playbill, and the breakdown of the family members, so I had some idea of what I was getting into (tl;dr: A Russian family is going broke and losing the estate that they’ve lived on for generations). Sadly, Joel Grey was out that day, but I was still really excited to see Diane Keaton, as well as Tavi Gevison and Celia Keenan-Bolger. Oh, and Chuck Cooper, too. 

The script was as dry and depressing as expected. The sets and lighting were lovely and mesmerizing. The performances were stellar. I can’t decide whether Keaton was great or overacting, because her character is a little delusional and crazy (think: a Russian Blanche duBois) so it was hard to tell. I still enjoyed watching her regardless. Keenan-Bolger and Gevinson were more compelling, though that might be because their characters were just more interesting to me. Then there was Chuck Cooper. who played a Russian businessman who knows the family. I love him in any and everything and he can do no wrong. Philip Kerr, who was on for Joel Grey, was whimsical with great comedic timing. Honestly, I can’t figure out why Grey would take a small, supporting role, but as great as he may be, I enjoyed Kerr a lot. 

Roundabout has put on a stunning production with a stellar cast of a slightly boring Chekhov play. But hey, I knew what I was getting myself into when I took my seat. If you love this kind of play, this is a great production to see. 

And next time on Broadway…

I went through Playbill’s list recently and there are a ton of plays, and some interesting new musicals coming up (as of yesterday) this season. So, here goes in case you missed it, because I definitely (almost) did, your next theatre season will include….

Anastasia – 1st prev. 4/24/17 – Even though they changed this quite a bit from the animated movie, I’m still excited for this. If not just for the costumes and the score. Between this and The Great Comet, there is a heavy Russian-vibe to this season in musicals so far.

A Bronx Tale the Musical – 1st prev. 11/3/16 – I went to the final dress rehearsal of the play based on A Bronx Tale in 2007, but the musical version should be interesting. It’s based on the movie, obviously. 

The Cherry Orchard – 1st prev. 9/15/16, RTC – I’m not a Chekov fan. But this has a pretty awesome cast with Chuck Cooper, Tavi Gevinson, Celia Keenan-Bolger, etc.

Come From Away – 1st prev. 2/18/17 – Interesting premise, awesome cast: Chad Kimball, Jenn Colella, Rodney Hicks. I saw a production photo today and it looks like the second incarnation of Once

Dear Evan Hansen – 1st prev. 11/14/16 – I kicked myself for not catching this off-Broadway at Second Stage, but I’ll definitely see it this time around. Jennifer Laura Thompson is back!

The Encounter – 1st prev. 9/20/16 – So this will be on Broadway. I know nothing more. 

Falsettos – 1st prev. 9/29/16 – This show is fine. It’s sad. It’s moving. I guess it’s an appropriate time for it to be revived. Great cast: Stephanie Block, Andrew Rannells, and Christian Borle.

The Front Page – 1st prev. 9/20/16 – Jefferson Mays! John Goodman. John Slattery. Nathan Lane. So seeing this!

The Glass Menagerie – 1st prev. 2/14/17 – I don’t know why this is being revived again so soon after an exquisite revival a couple of years ago but Finn Wittrock, from The Big Short, is in it!

Heisenberg – MTC – 1st prev. 9/20/16 – This doesn’t really sound interesting but you know who is interesting? Mary Louise Parker. 

Hello Dolly – 1st prev. 3/15/17 – I guess it’ll be nice to see this show live? Bette Midler and David Hyde Pearce are in this, which I guess is nice. I’m not really excited though.

Holiday Inn – 1st prev. 9/1/16, RTC – I’d go see this solely for Bryce Pinkham because he is lovely.

In Transit – 1st prev. 11/10/16 – This sounds really cliche and bad. I’m not sure you could pay me to see this. 

Jitney – MTC – 12/28/16 – August Wilson! Yay! 

Les Liaisons Dangereuses – 1st prev. 10/8/16 – Liev Schreiber! 

The Little Foxes – MTC – 1st prev. 3/29/17 Laura Linney AND Cynthia Nixon? Sign me up. 

Miss Saigon – 1st prev. 3/1/17 – I’m so excited for this. I saw the original production when I was 10, maybe 11. I loved it. It’s about time this is back with all the shit that’s seen revivals recently.

The Great Comet – 1st prev. 10/18/16 – Like I’ve said before, this show is great and I’m excited to see it on Broadway. 

Oslo – LCT 1st prev. 3/23/17 – Also kicking myself for not seeing this off-Broadway. Michael Aranov is great.

The Present – 1st prev. 12/17/16 – More Chekov! This time with Kate Blanchet. Still not excited for Chekov. 

The Prince – RTC – 1st prev. 2/16/17 – I don’t know what this is about, but John Tuturro!! After my fandom of The Night Of, I will certainly be seeing this.

Significant Other – 1st prev. 2/14/17 – I need to know who had money to burn because they can buy me a bigger apartment next time instead of bringing the Most Depressing Modern Play Ever Written to Broadway. Excited for Gideon Glick, who is adorable, but this play should stick to a small theatre. This way only small amounts of people can commit mass suicide when the curtain falls.

And that’s it (for now) folks. Happy theatre-ing! 

She Loves Me @ Studio 54

A while back, I bought Hiptix for @endotique and I to see She Loves Me at Roundabout’s Studio 54 and finally on Wednesday it was the night. I knew nothing about the plot but I knew Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti were in it and that was good enough for me. Little did I know I was going to see You’ve Got Mail the Musical….

No, really. It was. It followed the plot to a T. Over all, I really liked She Loves Me. It was worth the two and a half hours alone just to see Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi onstage. I’m not a super fan of either, but both are abundantly talented and it’s so fun to watch, and listen, to them live.

Shows like this have a tendency to frustrate because you’re like, “OMG he’s the one you love!” And of course their character doesn’t know it. I found myself making comparisons the entire time to You’ve Got Mail. I’m not saying that was a good or bad; it just was a thing.

The company were all fantastic. The last time I saw Levi he was in the abysmal First Date, where he was wasting away on trite material, and he delighted me again this time, except with better material. He can dance, too. Who knew? Laura Benanti sings like a bird and she is beautiful. She sort of always plays the same kind of character onstage but at the very least, she’s good at it! So why mess with something if it’s not broken?

The only thing that had me looking at my playbill to see how much longer was left was the lack of AC in the rear mezz, but if you can brave the heat, or buy a ticket downstairs, you’ll be golden. She Loves Me is classic musical theatre and a good time – even for people, like me, who can almost never justify a two and a half hour musical.

It’s been a long day’s night.

I knew Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night was long. I supervised wardrobe on it in college and sat through it (backstage) about a dozen times. That was the longest week ever. But I’d studied it in multiple classes in college and John Gallagher Jr. was in the cast (alongside the amazing Jessica Lange) so I wanted to see it. 

I remembered it was 3h15m, maybe 3.5hr. But when I found out it was 3.45, I was a little nervous. And when I found out there was only one intermission, I was totally scared.

Let me just start by saying that it is certifiably insane to only have one intermission. Two one-hour-and-forty-five-minute acts with only a 15 minute break is criminal. 

This show has comedic relief, sometimes, but overall it’s four hours of a depressing day for the Tyrone family. Jessica Lange carries this show effortlessly as the morphine addicted Mary Tyrone. I can’t imagine how tired she is at the end of this show. Gabriel Byrne gives a brilliant performance as the short-tempered and stingy James Tyrone. John Gallagher Jr. and Michael Shannon as Edmond Tyrone and James Tyrone Jr. (respectively) put their hearts entirely into their performances.

I won’t lie: I was maybe falling asleep during the last 45 minutes. It had already been a long day and the show was the longest day that I’d ever endured. 

I’m glad I saw it but I have to say that you should drink at least a triple espresso before you take your seat.