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.

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. 

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.

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. 

A Little Pinter on a Friday Night

I was asked to administer a survey for The League on Friday night and I was eager to see Clive Owen onstage so off I went. I knew nothing about Old Times, but as soon as I realized it was by Harold Pinter, I knew it’d be pretty incoherent. I have somewhat of an understanding of The Homecoming but I’m quite sure that’s because I studied it in at least a couple of classes in high school/college. I heard it was about a couple and an old friend that they haven’t seen in a long time coming to visit. I knew things would get messy.

Kate (Kelly Reilly) and Deeley (Clive Owen) are a couple living outside London and when Kate’s dear old friend, Anna (Eve Best), comes to visit, she turns the clock back for Deeley. 

Clive Owen, whom I love so much from the movie Closer, was great onstage. Kelly Reilly did her best, but I think her character was more annoying than anything else so that’s maybe why I couldn’t stand her. Eve Best, it must be said, did an excellent job with the material she was given.

Pinter is so incomprehensible, or maybe it’s just me. It was an interesting 65 minutes (no intermission!) for sure. 

I saw Significant Other with Matt last Thursday evening. I was excited because I’d heard Bad Jews was amazing and this had gotten a positive review in Time Out New York. Also Gideon Glick is adorable in any role he plays, so that’s never a bad thing. It was about four friends – three straight women and one gay man (Glick) – and Glick watches his three best friend’s get married off one-by-one as he has an incredibly difficult time with the dating scene.

There are lots of hilarious one (or two) liners (Glick: Grandma, I feel like all my friends are dying. Grandma: Me too…) but I have never felt so suicidal or depressed after walking away from a show. I related to Glick’s character in a huge way. It was also too long. Two hours with an intermission for this? No. There were definitely cuts to make and it could’ve been NMNI. 

Also: the ending. It ends with Glick, along on a dark stage, looking out into the audience where his friends are all dancing with their significant others and he’s alone. I presume he kills himself after the wedding.

I liked it and I’m glad I saw it, but I would never go back. Glick was fantastic and really does his best with this extremely draining role. Go see Significant Other, I guess, at your own risk.

I’d been meaning to catch Roundabout’s The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin by Steven Levenson for about a month now and being that this weekend was the final weekend, it had to happen. I was mostly drawn to this show because of Christopher Denham. Ever since I saw him in Red Light Winter in 2006, I’ve been a huge fan. David Morse and Rich Sommer were also part of this cast, which was pretty cool to see them onstage too.

Tom Durnin (Morse) is a former lawyer who has just been released from jail after a five year stay and now he’s staying on his son’s (Denham) couch while he tries to pick up his life from where he left off. His crime isn’t revealed until later on and it’s pretty clear that no one in his family wants anything to do with him. In the end, James (Denham) convinces him that he must disappear and start anew (hence the title).

David Morse was really intense and convincing (though admittedly my only reference for his work prior to today is his portrayal as the serial killer in Disturbia). Rich Sommers was good, but his role was probably the tiniest in the cast. 

Then there was Christopher Denham. I love him. I adore him. He is fantastic. He had issues that were revealed in perfect time through the text. He cried convincingly. I just loved watching his character unfold. 

Tom Durnin was a really interesting piece with a great cast (Lisa Emery and Sarah Goldberg rounded out the cast nicely in the two female roles). Unfortunately it closes on Sunday. If you saw it, let me know what you thought!

When I was 21 and studied in London for a summer, I took two classes (I totally didn’t go to London to take classes – guilty as charged): Shakespeare and Contemporary British Theatre. My Contemporary British Theatre class was especially fun because it was a combination of a bunch of theatre and non-theatre people.  The athletic jock was in this class as well as the aspiring Shakespearean scholar.

Anyways, one of the plays we discussed at one point or another was Look Back in Anger, by John Osborne, which was groundbreaking when it was written (in 1956) and first performed in England after the second World War. It was the first play that gave birth to the term “angry young men,” the term that was given to Osborne and his cohorts who expressed their anger through their writing.  I came home after that summer and immediately bought and read the play, and I don’t remember my initial reaction except maybe that it was interesting. One of our non-theatre cohorts also said at one point, “Hey, I bet that play has something do with Oasis’ song ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger!’” I went home and downloaded the song immediately too.  

When Roundabout announced that it was going to be apart of it’s season this year, I knew I wanted to see it.  A friend of mine had comps she couldn’t use last week so although I knew I’d have other opportunities to see it and I was feeling lazy, I took advantage of the opportunity at hand and went.  It was staged on the downstage edge (to heighten the claustrophobic feeling of the play, says the director) of the Laura Pels Theatre, Roundabout’s off-Broadway stage.  Imagine a rundown, sparse, disgusting apartment in mid-20th century London and you’ll have a good idea what it looked like. 

Telling the story of a less than happy love triangle, the center of the triangle Alison (played by Sarah Goldberg) is in what is more-or-less an verbally abusive relationship with her husband Jimmy (played by Matthew Rhys), and on the side she is in love with Jimmy’s best friend Cliff (played by Adam Driver) – who is also in love with her.  This side affair is known to Jimmy and doesn’t seem to bother him.  Their relationship is status quoi until one day when Alison’s college girlfriend Helena (played by Charlotte Parry) comes to stay for a night (which turns into a week). 

The direction is interesting as no one really ever leaves the stage, save for a few scenes in the second act. The actors leave the stage, but sit on the stairs and watch the rest of the scene play out. It is unimaginable that anyone could ever stay in a relationship with someone like Jimmy but somehow he’s found two women who contemplate it.  The four actors deliver fine performances that leave us rooting for them (well the non-heinous ones). 

The ending is hopeful, though anything but uplifting. I’m glad I finally got to see this script played out with a great cast with even better direction.  Roundabout has delivered yet another compelling production.

The only word that can be used to describe the current Roundabout revival of Anything Goes is “delovely.”  Having only performed in the musical a number of years ago while in High School, I was excited to finally see a professional production.  Roundabout has had a number of revivals flop, so I was thrilled to see that Anything Goes received raves and I was happy I already had tickets when they were received.

Anything Goes is, of course, a love story with music by the incomparable Cole Porter.  Billy, an assistant to a high profile business man, follows his beloved Hope onto a cruise ship to win her heart even though she is already engaged to a Duke, and Reno Sweeney, a famous New York showgirl, is hopelessly in love with Billy. 

 Everything about this production is first class, from the sets to the cast to the lighting and orchestra.  I even enjoyed Joel Grey as Moonface Martin (who everyone has been saying is grossly miscast) who had one of the most endearing numbers onstage, Blue Bird.  Sutton Foster, as Reno Sweeney, has found one of the roles she was born to play being the triple threat that she is and you’re unable to take your eyes off her any time she is onstage.  Laura Osnes, of Grease fame, has one of the prettiest, clearest soprano voices on Broadway today and she plays the ingénue with ease. 

Roundabout has struck gold with this revival, and I’d heavily recommend to set your sails towards the Sondheim Theatre.