Secret Code(ing)

I’ve had a few people tell me they’re unable to comment from WordPress reader. Because of my insatiable, sophomoric need for attention, this bothers me greatly. If I know I’m missing out on just one comment—never mind a few—I’m up all night watching a moonbeam traverse my ceiling.

Does anyone know a good WordPress coder who wants to make a few bob fixing this mess? I paid top dollar to migrate this address from Blogger to WordPress and this shouldn’t be happening. Good help is tough to find.

[Edit: WordPress helpline wonk Jason said this site is “…a bit confused on where it lives.” Just like its owner. A developer will fix next week. Huzzah.]

Here are some plays I saw this past season. Merry Christmas, everyone. Thanks for stopping by. You are the gift.

The Elephant Man
By Bernard Pomerance
Bradley Cooper
Patricia Clarkson
Alessandro Nivola

elephantI had deep misgivings about casting The Most Handsome Man AliveTM as the hideously deformed John Merrick. Talk about defying logic! The worst casting choice since Edward G. Robinson played an Egyptian in The Ten Commandments. An Egyptian, for Christ’s sake! [“Mmmwaaaa…Where’s your Messiah now…ya see?”]

Then I saw something really extraordinary. After a preamble, the play started like this:

elephant man1As Dr. Treves read a detailed description of Merrick’s deformities, photos flashed on the screen. Meanwhile, Cooper slowly distorted and bent his body. At the end of the scene, Cooper was gone and The Elephant Man stood before a stunned audience. This, augmented with a master class in acting by Patricia Clarkson, made for one of the more satisfying nights this year. The last :10 minutes of the Act 1 was so deeply moving that I almost lost it. Clarkson, as Mrs. Kendal, reaches out to shake Merrick’s hand—the first time a woman touched him. The moment hung there in the thick, quiet air,

The River
by Jez Butterworth
Hugh Jackman
Cush Jumbo
Laura Donnelly

People are killing themselves trying to get tickets to this, paying as much as $275 per seat. It’s an intimate theater—the capacity is only 776 seats. And it’s Hugh Jackman, after all. Here’s the dirty little secret that nobody is talking about:

It’s kind of boring.

theriverIt’s about a guy who falls in love too easily with women he barely knows. Hell, that’s not so special! That’s been my standard operating procedure for years. It’s not the actors’ fault. The source material is flat. Butterworth’s last play, Jerusalem with Mark Rylance, was so compelling that I left work “sick” to attend a mid-week matinee because I wanted to see it a second time. I’m not sure what happened here.

The Real Thing
By Tom Stoppard
Ewan McGregor
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Cynthia Nixon
Josh Hamilton

real thingIt wasn’t well received by the critics and discounts are readily available, but I had a nice time. This is Stoppard’s most accessible play and it looked like everyone was having a pretty good time. McGregor, especially, embraced the part of a philandering husband. Nixon’s British accent was a bit strained, which is inexcusable since she’s been acting since she was a child. Aside from that, what’s the beef? Lighten up, critics!

A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations)
by Sam Shepard
Stephen Rea

particleI didn’t have high hopes for this. It’s based on Oedipus, which I know nothing about. He sleeps with his mom and murders his dad or something like that? But it’s Sam Shepard and, dammit, attention must be paid. It was a good enough production but I’d had a long day and was so fucking tired that night. Attending the theater when you’re tired is suicide. The lights go down. The chair is comfy. They’re reading a bedtime story. Good night, sweet prince.

This Is Our Youth
by Kenneth Lonergan
Kieran Culkin
Michael Cera
Tavi Gevinson

youthI didn’t have high hopes for this (Part II). I’m anti-Michael Cera. His line delivery is one-note and monotone. Also, I once read an interview where he complained about the burdens of fame and that worked my nerves. He’s a poor puppy. But I got a pfat discount so I went.

I’m still not ready to concede that Cera is a good actor overall, but he was quite good here. The revelation is Kieran Culkin. He had the flashy role and made hay with it. Tavi Gevinson isn’t a trained actor. She started a fashion blog at age 12 and is still a teen. No formal training! Her serviceable performance makes me wonder about the value of acting classes.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
By Simon Stephens
Nobody you’d know
dogProbably the most satisfying of the lot. Anonymous casts are sometimes best. Movie stars come with preconceived notions. Hugh Jackman was…well…Hugh Jackman. But with a cast of unknowns, the characters are allowed to develop unique personas. They’re free from all that baggage.

From London. A boy with Asperger’s syndrome sets out to discover who murdered the neighbor’s dog. An enjoyable first act segues to a trippy, brilliantly staged second act. You experience what navigating London might be like with your five senses overloaded. Alex Sharp, who just graduated from Juilliard in April (April, for cryin’ out loud! Some struggle.) is solid as s 15-year old mathematical genius who can barely walk down the street, much less navigate the London tube. Emotionally manipulative but SO WHAT. Excellent.

By Ayad Akhtar
Gretchen Mol
Josh Radnor
Karen Pittman
Hari Dhillon

disgracedPulitzer Prize winner. Brilliantly written sociopolitical drama about progressive, smarty-pants upper class professionals who might harbor a bit of racial prejudice after all when it comes to Islam. Mol quite good, Randor a little stiff. The lead was originally played by Aasif Mandvi but he couldn’t accommodate the off-to-Broadway transfer. No matter. Dhillon is broken and sinister enough.

Ayad Akhtar might be my new favorite contemporary playwright. (Sorry, Mr. Mamet.) In addition to this gem, his Invisible Hand is also currently playing off-Broadway. And as good as Disgraced is, that one is even better. A Wall Street sharp is kidnapped by Pakistani terrorists who force him to raise money on their behalf via illicit stock trades. Terrorists get a taste of capitalism. Hilarity ensues. (Not really.)