Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Reviews from Elsewhere: Thomas Jenkins on Current NYC Productions, San Antonio Current, January 2, 2013

Thomas Jenkins aka 'The Wicked Stage' at the San Antonio Current weekly does a portmanteau account of six current productions: Odets' Golden Boy, the musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Durang's Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, a revival of Inge's Picnic, Grace by Craig Wright, and The Other Place by Sharr White.

San Antonio Current

The Wicked Stage in NYC

January 2, 2013
By Thomas Jenkins

Golden Boy Clifford Odets Playbill Bellasco Theatre NYWell, The Wicked Stage has fallen woefully behind. Yes, I still have theater reports on Madrid and Los Angeles in my hopper, but I plead (as my friends and colleagues know too well) that I really should be writing my #@$#* book. But as the year winds down, I find that I simply have to report on a weekend of binge theater-going in NYC: because of Broadway’s special holiday schedule, I was able to take in six shows in three days–which is insane, even for me!

The upside, though, is that my theater-reportage falls neatly into groups of three. Hands down the best things I saw in NYC were handsome, gorgeously-mounted revivals of Golden Boy and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. While they couldn’t be more different in form—the one, a ’30s drama of disillusion, the other a musical-hall spoof of detective novellas—they were similar in their principal virtue: each nailed exactly the required style for the show. In Golden Boy, Clifford Odets dissects the American Dream through heightened, poetic language that nevertheless captures the grittiness of immigrant America: the plot centers on a second-generation Italian who can either pursue a career as a concert violinist or—somewhat improbably—as a welterweight prizefighter. Yes, the play is schematic: does our hero choose the Old World-ish, vaguely socialist values of harmony and concord or the New World imperative of cutthroat competition—of literally pummeling one’s way to the top? And yes, it’s old-fashioned: three sprawling acts, plenty of secondary characters, and a color palette that runs the gamut from grey to, er, brown. But in Bartlett Sher’s smashing production, it’s also beautiful and sincere and moving.

There’s not much hope that Golden Boy will ever tour: too big, too old-fashioned. But I feel fairly confident that Drood, by triple-threat composer, lyricist, and book-writer Rupert Holmes, will eventually hit the road. Adapted in tongue-in-cheek style from Dickens’ last, unfinished novel, Scott Ellis’ Drood is a delight: a full-out music hall farce with plenty of mugging, terrible puns, glorious singing, and excellent performances by Stephanie J. Block, Will Chase, and even—there is a god in Heaven—Chita Rivera. (In addition, a ridiculous sound gag in the first act extracted from me the heartiest laugh I’ve had in a theater in months.) I suspect this will be the hottest new ticket in NYC until Matilda opens this spring.

Read more at the San Antonio Current on-line . . . .

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