250 Word Reviews: Sylvia

Originally published on 250 Word Reviews.

sylvia

SYLVIA
(Broadway: Cort Theatre)

If there’s one reason to see Sylvia, A. R. Gurney’s 1995 canine comedy making its Broadway debut, it’s Annaleigh Ashford. As the titular tail-wagger, she delights with comic delivery worthy of Lucille Ball and canine physicality that even Lassie would admire. (Credit to “Physicality Consultant” Nathan Peck.)

Unfortunately, there’s no second reason. Under Daniel Sullivan’s direction, the show plays like burlesque for gentiles, more over-extended sketch than play. Greg (Matthew Broderick) and Kate (Julie White) are recent empty-nesters relocated to the Upper East Side. He is unhappily an investment banker, she a do-gooder educator determined to bring Shakespeare to the city’s underprivileged junior high schools. When Greg brings home a stray dog he befriended in the park, he sees companionship and new vitality; Kate only sees disruption of their newly organized life.

While Ashford brilliantly milks everything from chasing cats to being in heat for laughs, Broderick is saddled with the uncomfortable task of making rape jokes about animals mating while not appearing to be a beastialist himself. Robert Sella, juggling a trio of supporting roles, dispenses with all dignity playing two drag parts that might have been amusing to Republicans in the 90s but were exceptionally distasteful to this liberal today. While Broderick manages to deliver one of his better performances in recent memory despite sub-par material, White disappears beneath her underwritten part of nagging-but-well-meaning wife.

While one might imagine this was a charming amusement off-Broadway twenty years ago, today it is largely a bloated embarrassment.

Production photo by Joan Marcus: Matthew Broderick as Greg and Annaleigh Ashford as Sylvia.

 

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Jewschool.com: Oriented: New Documentary about Gay Palestinians in Tel Aviv

Originally published on Jewschool.


“[Other Palestinian activists] tend to deal with the national issue rather than the social one. They focus on the national and put all other identities aside. But we have a lot of complex identities. There are a lot of issues that people are afraid to confront, and this is our opportunity to play with these identities.” – Fadi Deem

Oriented, a new documentary by Jake Witzenfeld, follows a group of gay Palestinian men as they fall in and out of love, come out to their families, and form an activist collective called Qambuta. Witzenfeld, a British, straight, Jewish resident of Israel, first introduces us to Khader Abu Seif, a handsome and charismatic activist speaking to a group of Jews at Tel Aviv’s LGBT Center. He relates a story of being contacted by a journalist looking for a tragic gay Palestinian who can share the tale of his persecution and woe. Khader explains that he’s actually very happy, well-adjusted, and accepted. Well then, the reporter asks him, can you put me in touch with such a Palestinian? Continue reading

250 Word Reviews: Dames At Sea

Originally published on 250 Word Reviews.

Dames At Sea

DAMES AT SEA
(Broadway: The Helen Hayes Theatre)

Dames at Sea first delighted audiences in 1966 with its low-budget, can-do spunk. A gentle spoof of 1930s movie musicals, the show prefigured the nostalgia crazy of the 1970s and introduced the world to Bernadette Peters as the ingénue-who-becomes-a-star, Ruby. Now making its Broadway debut, the show’s been gussied up with fancier sets (by Anna Louizos) and costumes (by David C. Woolard) and a major infusion of tap dancing by director/choreographer Randy Skinner, the contemporary master of the form. Can this extra dose of razzmatazz make up for the lost intimacy and proximity to its antecedent? Only intermittently. Eloise Kropp, this production’s Ruby, is a fine singer and dancer, but she lacks “it.” Thankfully, Lesli Margherita as overbearing diva Mona is full of “it,” and she walks away with every scene she’s in. The rest of the tiny cast get the job done, but the show is so light and frothy it leaves little lasting impression. The book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller are heavy on references that will be lost on contemporary audiences and surprisingly light on jokes. Jim Wise’s melodies do the heavy lifting; audiences are sure to hum the tunes for weeks. Some of the show’s old-fashioned features, like the song “Singapore Sue” (despite its uncredited new lyrics) and the decision to cast only white people, might have better been left in the past. Ultimately: a fun but inconsequential diversion of just about two hours, but who wants to pay $155 for that?

Production photograph by Jeremy Daniel. Pictured (l-r): Danny Gardner, Mara Davi, John Bolton, Eloise Kropp, Cary Tedder, and Lesli Margherita.

CastAlbums.org: REVIEW: Cry-Baby: The Musical – Studio Cast

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.

Cry-BabyCry-Baby was one of the more anticipated musicals of the 2008 Broadway season. Coming on the heels of Hairspray, the show gave a similar treatment to the film John Waters made after the original Hairspray. Hairspray‘s book writers, Thomas Meehan and Mark O’Donnell, were once again on board, this time teamed with the songwriting team of Adam Schlesinger (best known then as the bassist from Fountains of Wayne, the band that gave us “Stacey’s Mom“) and David Javerbaum(then executive producer of The Daily Show). Despite a talented cast (full of youthful enthusiasm but no star names to speak of) and a fun rockabilly score, the show failed to find its audience and closed within a couple of months.  Continue reading