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.
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.
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.
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:
Hell, yeah! EGGS!
7,000 of them, in fact.
Each one is unique and hand-made from plaster and resin.
I like that the ones on the walls obey gravity and are a bit droopy.
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.