Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mr. & Mrs. Fitch

The harder they fall. I had enjoyed Douglas Carter Beane's shows such as The Little Dog Laughed and As Bees in Honey Drown in the past but the new one is stultifying. I suspect Mr. & Mrs. Fitch might have been better -- well, not as bad -- had the leads been two gay men instead of a straight couple. If it quacks like a duck...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Clybourne Park

I've been on a lucky roll lately: The Pride, The Boys in the Band and now Clybourne Park. The latter is the new offering by Bruce Norris (The Pain and the Itch) and is at Playwrights Horizons. Forget about David Mamet's Race: This is the play to see if you're interested in such matters. Or just in very good theater. Plus unlike Mamet's turgid show, Clybourne Park is riotously funny.

The Boys in the Band

The Transport Group's revival of Mart Crowley's play The Boys in the Band has just opened, and it's riotous fun. I highly recommend getting tix ASAP if you want to see it because due to the site-specific set-up, there's only 99 people per show.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Lie of the Mind

Ethan Hawke's thespian-packed revival of the Sam Shepard play A Lie of the Mind (1985) opened last night. If anything, it confirms the status of Marin Ireland — in a tricky part — as one of the top stage performers in town. My review here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Pride

There was talk of a possible Broadway transfer of Alexi Kaye Campbell's The Pride even before it opened. For once I wholeheartedly agree: It'd be great if a large, diverse audience saw this show. My enthusiastic review is here. Alas, the Times' lukewarm take may torpedo the whole thing.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Measured Measure for Measure

Theater for a New Audience's production of Measure for Measure opened last night at the Duke on 42nd St, and my review is here. I foresee MTC in director Arin Arbus' future.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Swedish Glee

The Dilettante's Special Stockholm Correspondent (soon! soon!) has alerted me to the existence of a Swedish TV show called Körslaget, which is about competing choirs. Sounds familiar? You bet!

The concept was developed by a Swedish singer named Caroline af Ugglas (whose own 2009 Melodifestivalen entry was a bizarrely intense ballad titled "Snälla Snälla") and it was adapted by NBC under the title Clash of the Choirs for a short-lived run. The Swedish version was a lot more successful, with popular singers leading choirs culled from their home towns.

Aside from the age of the contestants — and having Abba songs instead of show tunes — it's hard not to see a certain resemblance in musical approach between Körslaget and a little series called Glee. Check out Abba's "Does Your Mother Know" by Team Magnus (that would be Magnus Carlsson from Alcazar), Iron Maiden's "Run to the Hills" by Team Lotte (dansband singer Lotte Engberg) and a car-crash cover of Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" by Team Pontare (Roger Pontare, who represented Sweden at Eurovision twice).

And then people wonder why Sweden is my spiritual home…

Happy Now?

Not a rhetorical question, but the title of Lucinda Coxon's new play, which just opened at Primary Stages (review in today's paper). Maybe it was better a couple of years ago at the National Theatre in London; here, I always felt the strain of the American actors focusing on their British accents.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

James Ellroy's one cranky dude

Upon the recent publication of the last part of his Underworld USA trilogy, Blood's a Rover, in France, James Ellroy has been on a big publicity blitz over there. I just got around to reading a very entertaining interview with him in the weekly mag Les Inrockuptibles. Here's my (somewhat hasty) translation of a few choice exchanges between Ellroy and journalist Serge Kaganski. (Confusingly, the French title of the book is Underworld USA.)

SK: One of the things that stick out in the book is the racism of some of the characters, starting with Hughes and Hoover, and the frequent use of racist language in your dialogue.
JE: [interrupting] I see where you're going, let me explain.
SK: Wait, I'm not insinuating that you or your book are racist, but are you fascinated by racist language just the way you're fascinated by slang or ghetto speak?
JE: Hey! You're interrupting me here! Don't interrupt me! Okay… [goes on to talk about his characters]
SK: But what's your relationship toward that racist language? Is it simply realism? Are you fascinated by it?
JE: It doesn't bother me at all. I like the various forms of the American language. I like racist insults. I like using Yiddish words. I like slang. I like hipster talk. I like jazz speak…
SK: So for you, racist expressions are a purely literary device?
JE: Ask me questions! You're just interpreting my answers!

A bit later…

SK: You like writing only about the past. It's both great and a pity. America is very interesting right now with Obama in the White House.
JE: I don't care at all! I've already said it but you don't seem to listen. I don't care about the modern world. I don't go to the movies, I have no Internet, no cell phone, no TV, I don't read newspapers. I have an assistant who takes care of my bills. I live like a hermit. I don't want to know what's going on in France, I don't give a shit! I just want to live only in the world I create.
SK: But you live now!
JE: No, wrong answer! Okay, I live now, I go to the supermarket, I see what's around me… But history, politics, the news don't interest me at all, and I'll never write about these times. So give me a break with Obama!
SK: You enjoy confirming your reputation as a conservative?
JE: Yes, absolutely, I'm a conservative. Beyond that, I don't comment on my political opinions. I don't like computers, I don't like digital technology, I don't like crowds in the streets. I like looking back and focus on something that's controlled, organized and programmed in my head. That's the kind of place where I like to live, that's where I'm comfortable, safe. But though the world of today doesn't interest me at all, I'm still very happy to be alive.
SK: You're held as one of the greatest American writers—
JE: It's true!
SK: —are you also a reader? Which novelists do you value?
JE: I don't read at all. I know nothing about current culture. I'd still mention one writer, Don DeLillo, whose Libra inspired American Tabloid.

Ellroy goes on to talk about how except for L.A. Confidential, he doesn't care about the screen adaptations of his books, he's only in it for the money they bring him, etc. The conversation switches to his stay in Paris. Typically, Ellroy sticks to his hotel and goes out only to do his promo rounds.

SK: But how can you not be interested in travel, in the pleasures of change and discovery?
JE: Sir, how to put it? I don't give a shit about all this! I love women, being alone, my fictional world, classical music, and dogs. That's a lot, and it's enough to fill up my life. Today I have a regular girlfriend, an American, so I don't ogle women anymore. But before, yeah, I looked. In that respect, there's a bit of myself in some of my characters.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Oh Fanny Fanny Fanny...

My review of the Encores! revival of Harold Rome's Fanny is in today's paper. Ooooh I had such a lovely time. Highly recommended if you like semi-obscure 1950s musicals.

somehow packs the entire Marcel Pagnol film trilogy in one show, so it really zips along. I was amused to see that the show featured the famous card-playing scene, which has become cult in French cinema. Here it is.