Bowie good. Pacino bad. Pacino bad. Bowie good. Depends who you ask.

All these decades of theater-going haven’t taught me a damn thing.

About two weeks ago I saw Lazarus while it was still in previews at the New York Theater Workshop in the East Village. It’s written by David Bowie and Enda Walsh. Walsh adapted Once for the stage. You know who Bowie is. It’s a musical that uses Bowie’s back catalog and a few new songs he wrote for the play. The show is being treated like the second coming of Mashiach. It is exciting. Bowie is a recluse.

lazarus

The story is a continuation of The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bowie’s film from 1976, itself an adaptation of the Walter Tevis novel from 1963. [This town has adaptation-itis.] Spoiler alert. Thomas Newton (this time, played by Dexter’s Michael C. Hall, not Bowie) never made it back to his home planet. In fact, he’s stranded in the East Village. How appropriate. That’s pretty much all I understood because I found the entire affair to be a slow, dull, befuddled mess. I can’t say the plot meandered because in order for a plot to meander, there has to be a plot. There were characters on stage who seemed to be in a different play entirely. I surmised it was two intermissionless hours because had they given the audience an opportunity to flee, they would’ve.

Or so say I.

The reviews came out a few days ago. The Guardian gave it four stars. The New York Times said the play contained, “Ice cold bolts of ecstasy…”. Rolling Stone made a liar out of me, saying it ‘…never drags.” Tickets are impossible to get.

They’re all just saying that because it’s Bowie. I don’t know how the New York Theater Workshop manages to land these big names. This spring, Daniel Craig is playing Iago and David Oyelowo is playing Othello. That theater is only 199 seats. They could fill up a medium-sized concert hall for that show.

I think it’s safe to assume that David Mamet and Al Pacino’s best work is behind them. But, c’mon! It’s Pacino and Mamet! Attention must be paid. I saw China Doll, like Lazarus, while it was still in previews. The rumors were rampant that Pacino kept dropping lines and rewrites were being made daily. The critics smelled blood in the water. But I had a very fine evening. Some of the dialog was vintage crisp Mamet and Pacino didn’t go-up on any of his lines (that I’m aware of). It had quite a few laughs. It looked like any problems were either ironed out or never existed in the first place. Broadway chat rooms are full of jealous, gossipy, theater queens.

Then the reviews came out. There’s bad and then there’s scathing.

Variety implored Mamet to, “…quit jerking us around on non-plays like China Doll.” The New York Times said, “…extracting [the plot] from Mr. Pacino’s mumbling is really hard work.” The headline in the New York Post review was: “Al Pacino’s Broadway show is even worse than you think.”

I don’t know about all that. I kind of enjoyed myself. In the end, it hardly matters. The run sold out before previews began.

China_Misery

Same thing with the stage adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery.

They all said Bruce Willis’ performance as writer Paul Sheldon was lethargic and laid back. What’d they expect? The curtain opens and both of his legs are in casts and his arm in a sling. He spends 90% of the show in a bed and the other 10% a wheelchair. It probably helps if you have really great seats because it’s such an intimate story. As usual, I had really terrible seats but I had my binoculars so I was fine.

Laurie Metcalf received universal and well-deserved praise as the demented Annie Wilks. Yes, there’s a cobbling scene and it’s horrifying to watch, even though you know Bruce’s ankles aren’t actually being broken with a sledgehammer. There are more laughs than you’d expect. The critics can bite me. I liked it just fine.

They weren’t very nice to Keira Knightley in Thérèse Raquin, either.

ThereseRaquin

The Times said it was monotonous and her performance had a joyless intensity. I’m going to have to agree with them this time, although my problem was exacerbated terrible seats in the cavernous Studio 54. Every time I see a show in that dump, I swear it’s my last. That’s why good seats are so bloody expensive. They make for a better evening.


Currently at the Kate Werble Gallery down on Vandam Street is Christpher Chiappa’s Livestrong. Chiappa’s medium is:

EGGS!

eggs

Hell, yeah! EGGS!

eggs2

7,000 of them, in fact.

eggs3

eggs6

Each one is unique and hand-made from plaster and resin.

eggs1

I like that the ones on the walls obey gravity and are a bit droopy.

eggs4

eggs5


Good thing we blasted a gaping hole in the ozone layer. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have this interesting weather. Two weeks before Christmas and it’s balmy enough for a stroll on the beach and boardwalk in Asbury Park. Nothing unusual about that. Nothing at all.

cornerstone

bike

wreathdog

59 thoughts on “Bowie good. Pacino bad. Pacino bad. Bowie good. Depends who you ask.

  1. That Bowie play would not be for me. I’d be more a Misery goer. Things that are too artsy fartsy make my mind wander, and with as much as Broadway tickets cost, that’s not good. Whether a movie, play, or book, give me something with escalating tension or I snooze. I’m so unadventurous that way.

    • It was such a disappointment. It was a musical that used a lot of Bowie tunes, which I really love, but it just DIDN’T WORK. Unless you ask the professionals, of course. They couldn’t believe their good luck. I don’t mind a bit of experimental theater or art, though. Have you ever seen a production of Waiting for Godot? I thought it would be pretentious junk but I really like it, even though it makes no sense.

  2. I don’t care that I haven’t the faintest bloody idea what you’re on about! I WANT TO BE IN NEW YORK! I want to see these shows for myself.Never mind that I used to to do movie reviews for a minor news rag.Never mind that I did tread the boards .I NEED proper theatre.
    Thank you.

  3. Whether theatre, movies, or books, or most things actually, I would always give much more credence to the man on the street’s review rather than the professional reviews, so I would far rather go and see something that you have recommended but the critics have slated rather than the other way around. Critics assess things within a set of rules of how things should or shouldn’t be, or following current trends, or trying to look clever – they forget the basics about whether they simply had a good time or not.

    Those eggs are kind of fascinating, from a distance they look like bacteria, some kind of disease spreading over the walls and floor, its that the effect that is wanted? Something from a bad horror movie – scientists try to create chickens that produce more eggs, but it all goes horribly wrong and the eggs slowly take over the world. I see scenes like a half naked woman sitting up in bed screaming as her walls are covered in these eggs, and they are slowly creeping over her too.

    • I agree with your point about professional critics but the truth is I do rely on them quite heavily. If I have a free evening and a few extra bob to spend on a play, I want to ensure that my time and money isn’t wasted. That’s where critics comes in handy. They can help me weed out the crap. Of course, if you rely on them to happily, you could miss out on some really usual and wonderful theater.

      That’s a dark turn you took with the eggs! I found them more whimsical then threatening. It’s a fun show but I’m still not convinced I like it or that it’s art. I’ll wait until the show is reviewed. Then I’ll know what to think.

  4. I agree with Vanessa-Jane — I’d be more likely to trust your reviews than the professionals’. IN fact, I’m thinking you should be reviewing theatre and art for big bucks. You really do have a gift for it.

  5. Bowie? Since when was David Bowie a playwright? It sounds as if it got good reviews because the reviewers didn’t want to admit they couldn’t understand it. I’m glad you liked the Pacino play because I thought he was good in Danny Collins.

    Amazing weather you’re having – don’t you usually get snow at this time of the year? Or maybe that’ll come in January!

  6. The egg art is quite something! I kind of like it. I can’t believe I’m saying that. At the very least, that piece took dedication. Bowie can do nothing wrong in the eyes of people who worship him. I’ve seen lots of movies (not so much theater) where the critics raved while I was bored to tears. What is all that about? Of course, it’s all subjective. It seems as though even a bad review does wonder for ticket sales when a star is cast for theater. I always thought Pacino could get away with mumbling. What do I know? You never know when someone has it out for someone and wants to ruin their reputation or something. Great pics! You’re at the beach!!! Wow. I thought that kind of weather happened in California in the month of December.

    • Hi Amy. I can’t believe you’re saying that,either. Furthermore, I can’t believe I agree with you! On paper it seems like such an idiotic idea. Eggs on a wall. What the hell is that? But walking into the room is a bit of a cheap thrill.

      There is no subjectivity. There’s only my opinion. And yours, of course, but mainly mine. There are certain shows that are bullet proof. A solid movie star will guarantee a show’s success regardless if it’s any good or not, which appears to be the case here. That’s why producers always want a name in the cast. It’s an insurance policy.

      • It must be the cheap thrill I’m seeking!! Ha ha. I know. I’m usually more of a snob than this.
        There’s only my opinion…which I value by the way. You go!

  7. And, then, there is the theater-goer and his or her frame of mind. I enjoy your caustic take on things artistic. Helps encourage my harrumphing at bad stuff. Eggs don’t mean much to me, but the sheer numbers in an installation would tempt me to see it. We had an artist in Orange City collect shell casings (of the personal firearm variety) (https://www.nwciowa.edu/news/3746/northwestern-to-feature-senior-art-exhibit) and put together a display in our little college art studio here. *That* caught my attention. I could have looked at that for days.

    • That’s a beautiful exhibit! Thanks for the link. How big what it? I appreciate the close-up but I need a broader shot for frame of reference, much like what I did with the eggs up above. An egg doesn’t mean much but 7,000 eggs makes you wonder.

      The other factor in seeing a play is that every night it’s different. Yeah, the script is the same and the blocking is the same, but not all performances are equal. Some are simply better than others. Maybe I caught Pacino on a good night. Damn good thing I did, too. I sat in the backety-back and it WASN’T CHEAP.

      • I didn’t have enough wit to get a photo myself (and that quite an admission for a photographer), and the senior exhibit has been taken down (that is a damn shame that it couldn’t have been up longer). I haven’t hunted up an image for a frame of reference either. Now, my curiosity is perking. Google “claudia bomgaars images.” There are a few images with a little more perspective.

  8. Those are some awesome reviews you wrote, Mark! I saw Daniel Craig, whom I see you mentioned up there, in Spectre last night (finally). Only theater I’ve been in a while, actually…but it did have cool reclining seats!
    I wonder if there is any connection to Lance Armstrong with that “Livestrong” name… eggs are really being touted right now as super food, you know. If you don’t have any issues with hyperlipidemia, (aren’t you impressed) you can safely have two a day, so say the health authorities.
    Did you catch the game??? It was 70 degrees here today!

    • I saw Spector over the Thanksgiving holiday in the movie theater in Middleburg Heights on Bagley Road. Do you know where that is? I thought it was terrific. Why the mediocre reviews?

      I, too, thought you should have gone with a different name. Livestrong is already spoken for. Did you like it? Or do you think it’s silly? It can easily go either way.

      I never get to see the Browns games. They’re not broadcast out here. But I’m glad they won. It was beautiful out here as well. I went for a nice, long run and almost passed out from the heat.

      • Yes, I know that theater – very close to BW! I liked Spectre, didn’t mean to sound like I didn’t. Quite the opening with the octopus and all! And I like the egg art… would like to know what statement the artist was trying to make with it. I’ve been running in t-shirts and shorts for the past few days here, know what you’re saying!

      • You’re correct about the title sequence for Spector. I fancy myself a bit of a Bond bon vivant. As far as title sequences go, that’s one of the best ones.

        I don’t know what kind of statement could possibly be made for a room full of 7,000 fried eggs. Perhaps it’s just visual. It did look kind of cool.

      • Could easily be mass produced to add a little flair to the dreary walls in some of the diners I’ve been in! There’s one that comes to mind called, “The Big Egg” on Detroit (how appropriate is that) Can’t beat it for inexpensive, tasty diner food!

      • The Big Egg. I never thought I’d see those words in this space. I know it well. When I was living in Lakewood we’d have long nights in the Flats of listening to bands and being ignored by pretty girls. On the way home we’d stop in The Big Egg at 2:00 a.m. I’m glad it’s still there. Do you know the Clifton Diner? Another winner. Where did my youth go?

  9. I’d say that most likely Bowie’s best work is behind him too, and this is from a devoted fan and admirer of all things Dave, I have whole arguments about the influence he’s had on art and culture and his importance, what i like about Dave and Al and the other Dave is that when they are great they are fucking brilliant and when they are shit they shrug and get on with the next thing, no one has ever hit a home run every time up to the plate… and i see a reference to The Big Egg, it about moved me to tears, i haven’t been there for years, last time i was i was with a girl i worked with at Hill’s on Day Drive, her and i once had very drunk and stoned sex in front of one of those old giant early 90’s big screen televisions while the Serpent and the Rainbow was playing with no sound, i love the city of my youf…

    • I, too, nearly collapsed from the mention of The Big Egg. Weep, weep. So long, my youthful exuberance. Did the big screen TV have red, green and blue projection tubes coming out of a big unit on the floor?

      The three of them, David, David and Al, all have displayed real staying power. That’s why people flock to their works. Most entertainers are one-shot wonders IF THEY’RE LUCKY. If Michael Corleone is doing a play, you go see it, even if it might be very good and you have to sit in the back. If Ziggy Stardust is going to mine his old catalog for material, you go see it. The entire production might not be solid, but you’ll see flashes of greatness.

  10. A slow, dull and befuddled mess can pretty sum up my week.
    That’s eggstroadinarily ridiculous. I’m at a loss for words.
    I like the picture of the bike. Maybe you should be an artist.

  11. Lucky you to see all this stuff. I could happily watch Mr Pacino reciting the alphabet. I took my son to see ‘The man who fell from earth. ‘ All I remember is seeing Bowie in the all together.
    We saw ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest’ the same day and were mesmerised.
    Critics are often frustrated actors and writers.

    • I have a vague recollection of seeing ‘Man Who Fell to Earth’ in the theaters and being pretty horrified, although I don’t remember the plot that well. Long time ago.

      Did you see Cuckoo’s nest as a play or are you referring to the movie? Because it was a stage play before it was filmed. Fun fact of the day.

  12. I want that bike. As balmy and nice as this weather is, I can’t help but think we will be soooooo screwed when winter finally hits. I’m thinking another big-ass ice storm. (shudders). Guess I’m just your typical pessimistic New Englander. The eggs are odd, probably neat to see in person. So is this what art is all about? Just coming up with some bizarre idea that may or may not mean something significant? Spending countless hours creating it then just throwing it up on the walls? Sounds just like blogging.

    • Those big-tube beach cruiser bikes are the best, aren’t they? But I took that pic for the color combo. It looked nice in the warm sun. We could conceivably have a mild winter. Don’t go dark on us! It doesn’t necessarily have to dissolve into community-crippling ice storms. Put on a happy face.

      As far as the art is concerned, coming up with something bizarre is only half the battle. The tricky part is convincing a gallery to represent you and then sell the darn thing. Come to think of it, you’re right. It’s not that different than writing.

      Your boy Tom did okay yesterday. That, of course, comes after their “perfect” season was ruined by two consecutive losses. All those Pats are getting old, old, old.

      • You’re right, I’ll be positive and keep praying we have a mild winter. Global warming wins!
        I didn’t see the game last night as I was safely tucked in bed and fast asleep dreaming of Tom Brady winning his next Super Bowl MVP.

  13. The Eggs display was really interesting – thanks for the photos! Reminded me of the time that I managed, aged 2, to throw one of my plastic eggs into the oven – from the hallway. Apparently I was debarred from the kitchen thanks to an impenetrable shield (the child gate) and when mom was cooking, I somehow managed to lob a plastic egg into the oven before she shut the door. Halfway through cooking the meal she smelled something really bad and opened the oven to discover a perfect ‘fried egg’ on the base of the oven. Scraping it off she realised it was one of my melted yellow and white eggs, and when it cooled, she made a hole in it and made me wear it around my neck on a string as a mark of shame/pride.

    • Hey! You’re new here. Welcome. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Much obliged.

      I’m happy that this caused a flashback. I’ll bet the egg episode was buried deep in your subconscious. That’s a heck of an arm you’ve got there. Ever think of parlaying it into a paying gig? As far as your egg talisman, where is it today? I’ll bet it’ll fetch a pretty pound, especially with that story attached.

    • Everyone is clamoring for tickets To that Bowie show but there are none to be had. People get swept up in the hype. I swear, sometimes I think they could rename New York City ‘Hype Central.’ Have you been reading about Hamilton? There’s been a ridiculous tsunami of press. It can’t be that good.

  14. I once dropped an egg between my stove and counter top. It slowly oozed out of the shell and slid down that gap. It was a such a mess. I actually had to pull the whole stove out all the way and remove it from that area to access the slimy egg and broken shell. Could that be considered an art installation?
    Your reviews are different than Michael Riedel of the NY Post. Nice pics of the beach. Can the dog pose any farther from his master?

    • What you thought was a messy inconvenience was actually a pretty brilliant piece of performance art. Next time get a camera on that and sell the film to a gallery. Maybe get a corner of MoMA to show it on a loop. I’ve seen worse.

      Riedel is a jerk. He revels in gossip and negativity. He’s drunk on his own influence. I suppose after he’s gone there’ll be a new Riedel. It’ll never end.

      Can the master pose any farther from his dog, is what you should’ve written.

  15. I’m so jealous that you get to go to all of those plays, even if they stink. And you’re right on about critics – I read them for guidance, but I usually don’t agree with their assessments anyway.

    Got a sneak-peak at the new Modern Art exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute last weekend. Those offerings, including one “piece” consisting of a long, dining room table loaded with potatoes, reaffirmed that I have bourgeois tastes in art. Although the eggs are pretty cool.

    • I’m very, very lucky but Chicago ain’t exactly a hayseed town when it comes to theater. Some say the theater community there is even more robust than the one in NY. Plenty of productions mounted in Chicago eventually migrate their way east to Broadway. You get them first. And don’t get me started on Steppenwolf.

      How did you manage a sneak peak? Are you a member? Those are the best because 1) your opinion hasn’t been compromised by reviews and 2) they’re generally less crowded than the regular run. I like people except when I’m trying to soak in some art. Or if I’m in a theater. Or a movie. Or walking down the street. Or awake.

  16. Liked the eggs…is the artist trying to knock off/comment about Ai Wei Wei?
    Interesting that you have the dog on leash. You hadn’t mentioned him for a while and I thought perhaps you had lucked out and he went to live on the farm…

    • You get an A+ for the Ai Wei Wei supposition. It never occurred to me but that’s an excellent point of reference.

      Coco has become a non-story since we began giving her a tiny Prozac pill one a day in a dollop of peanut butter. She’s much calmer now, thank you. Best $8/month I’ve ever spent.

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