`Wait Until Dark’

Corrections or additions?

These reviews by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

May 13, 1998. All rights reserved.

Broadway Review: `Cabaret’

The "Wilkommen" mat is out again for the 1966

Tony Award-winning musical "Cabaret" that composers Kander

and Ebb, with writer Joe Masteroff, based on both the play "I

Am a Camera" by John van Druten, and Christopher Isherwood’s "Berlin

Stories." However, this time the mat is placed at the entrance

to the Kit Kat Klub, a decadent cabaret that has been designed to

evoke the atmosphere of Weimar Berlin, the musical’s setting. Here

you enter the former Henry Millers Theater, sit at a table or at a

banquette, consume food and drink, and let yourself be considered

a part of — and thus party to — director Sam Mendes’ fantasy.

Even if you think you already know that "life is a cabaret,"

you don’t know anything until you enter this awesomely fabricated

world that boldly considers, in musical and dramatic terms, the mystique

and the mystery of Hitler’s rise to power. An enveloping vision of

Hell and hedonism prevails in the provocative Donmar Warehouse staging,

newly revised for this Roundabout production. For those who want a

taste of unrefined decadence, without having to personally swallow

it, Mendes, Donmar’s artistic director, has put the show’s political

metaphors in raw relief. In this version, some songs from the 1972

film are included, and some from the original Broadway show excluded.

But raunchy is as raunchy does in such newly debauched favorites as

"Don’t Tell Mama," "Two Ladies," and "Money."

Mendes’ darkly expressionistic vision to have the plot become an intrinsic

part of the cabaret show rather than have the cabaret numbers as part

of the plot works extraordinarily well. Be prepared for a surfeit

of in-your-face vulgarity. Even so, the musical’s funny and chilling

satiric numbers are brilliantly invigorated by choreographer and co-director

Rob Marshall, who has put a luridly expressionistic spin on the dances.

A shocking new attitude comes with the mesmerizing performance of

Alan Cumming, as the unctuous, leering, asexual master of ceremonies.

This devilish imp with a serious drug problem worms his way through

the plot with the same dominating power he brings to the show’s oh-so-naughty

numbers. The bevy of not-so-beautiful but terrifically seedy Kit Kat

Klub showgirls owe a lot to designer William Ivey Long’s titillating,

tattered costumes. Not to be overlooked are the dragged-out and drugged-up

musicians, characters all.

Mendes has undoubtedly set out to make the musical’s milieu stand

in as much relief as does its mordant story about the liaison between

a bisexual writer, and a loose chanteuse. It is no easy task for an

actor to reinvent Sally Bowles after Liza Minnelli’s rather definitive

go at it. Natasha Richardson is a gifted actor and she is certainly

beautiful. Unfortunately, the out-sized dynamics of her performance

do not help us believe for a moment that she is Sally, the pathetic

and deluded loser. Despite her occasional attempts to validate Sally’s

perversities and eccentricities, Richardson presents us with a Sally

who resembles not so much the ruined, no-talent Brit wasting away

in a tacky Berlin nightclub as she does a runaway Wimbledon tennis

pro on holiday.

Except for Denis O’Hare, as Clifford’s Nazi friend Ernst Ludwig, who

affects a sort of sit-com German accent, there are fine, if accentless

portrayals by Mary Louise Wilson, as the landlady Fraulein Schneider,

and Ron Rifkin, as her Jewish beau Herr Schultz. John Benjamin Hickey

is good enough in the role of Clifford, the writer, based on Isherwood,

and altered to emphasize Clifford’s homosexuality. Despite Clifford’s

intimacy with Sally, there are no sexual sparks in either Hickey’s

or Richardson’s performances that help us understand their attraction

to each other. The performance with most impact comes from Michelle

Pawk who, as Fraulein Kost, the boarding house prostitute, defines

the grimness and desperation of the times as artfully as Robert Brill’s

chilling set. HHH

Cabaret, Kit Kat Klub (formerly Henry Miller Theater),

124 West 43 Street, New York, 212-719-1300. $50 to $75.

Top Of Page
`Wait Until Dark’

Back in 1952, Frederick Knott wrote a super thriller

called "Dial M for Murder." Fourteen years later he wrote

a stupid thriller called "Wait Until Dark." Guess which one

is being revived on Broadway?

You may need reviving after a few minutes of this stultifying time-waster.

Notwithstanding the dopey premise and the play’s puerile plotline,

it is this production’s commitment to bad acting, amateurish staging,

and tacky special effects that makes you think that perhaps the whole

impenetrable mess would look better performed in the dark. Yet with

the names Quentin Tarantino and Marisa Tomei on the marquee, the show’s

a sellout.

Some of you remember the superb Lee Remick in the much slicker original

1966 Broadway production. You may have also seen the awful movie version

starring Audrey Hepburn. Now it’s Marisa Tomei’s turn to be miscast

and misdirected (this time by Leonard Foglia) in a way that serves

to undermine the incredulous, yet vulnerable, behavior of her character.

Tomei, an otherwise excellent actor, makes her Broadway debut as the

resourceful blind woman who outwits three witless, tough-talking thugs

who invade her apartment to find a $1 million stash of heroin that

has been sewn into a doll and hidden in the refrigerator. She’ll survive

it.

For better or worse, Tomei seems less daunted by her character’s inability

to see, than by the boring script that makes its 90-minute duration

seem like three hours. However, Tomei gives us a gutsy New Yawka who,

we don’t doubt for a moment, can outsmart these dumb-as-they-come

intruders. In addition to a nice turn by Imani Parks as Gloria, the

obnoxious little girl who lives in the same building and helps Susy

in her time of need, there are some neatly executed machinations of

Stephen Lang, as an ex-con accomplice who pretends to be Susy’s new

friend.

But the audience is mainly there to see quixotic film-director and

film star Quentin Tarantino in the role of Harry Roat, a sadistic

drug thug who is Susy’s chief terrorizor. If Tarantino’s act of vapid

non-acting (in multiple roles and disguises, no less) constitutes

an open act of hostility against the legitimate profession, let it

at least be compared favorably to Madonna’s only slightly more excruciating

New York stage debut in David Mamet’s "Speed the Plow." They

deserve each other. Perhaps someone will suggest Coward’s "Private

Lives" as a vehicle for them next season. H

Wait Until Dark, Brooks Atkinson Theater, 256 West 47

Street, 212-307-4100. $55 & $60.


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