Corrections or additions?
Critic: Simon Saltzman. Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February
9, 2000. All rights reserved.
New York Valentines
So what are you going to do to celebrate that special
day that lets you show your lover the size of your heart? If you
from a been-there-done-that feeling about giving a big box of
chocolates, sending a large bouquet of fresh flowers that the cat
will chew up before they wilt, or going to an overcrowded restaurant
where the rose on your table is meant to make up for the overpriced
meal, then what about the theater? Sure, it costs. But an entertaining
play offers a lasting memory that is forever fixed to the date and
linked with the loved one you shared it with.
As we are about to commemorate St. Valentine’s Day, you may want to
scan the capsule reviews of some new and noteworthy shows that may
help inspire you to spend a night — or an afternoon matinee
— at the theater.
<B>Putting It Together works better than you would
expect from a revue-like show that weaves songs from various sources,
all by the same composer, of course, through a barely visible thread
of a plot that has been produced and directed without much
Nonetheless, the incomparable Carol Burnett and company not only do
better than you would expect, but do wonders with the difficult to
sing but dazzlingly sophisticated Stephen Sondheim selections that
propel an unhappily married couple, a couple of jaded singles on the
make, and a shrewd observer through a tryst and torment-filled
Bravo to Burnett for being alternately funny and touching and for
putting a different and delightful new spin on "Could I Leave
You" and "The Ladies Who Lunch." Bravo to George Hearn,
Ruthie Henshall, Bronson Pinchot, and David Engel (who replaced
John Barrowman, the night I attended) for making 33 of the greatest
theater songs ever written sound new again.
800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $30 to $80. To February 20. Two stars.
J. Cameron Smith, who was so brilliant as the
mercenary con-artist in "As Bees in Honey Drown," is getting
another chance to act out a fantastical existence in David
daffy and dark absurdist comedy Fuddy Meers. Smith plays Claire,
a mother who wakes up each morning with no recollection of her life.
The task that Claire’s son from a previous marriage and her current
husband have is to go through a daily ritual of cluing Alice in on
her life. Her fractured life, made complex enough by her state of
psychologically-induced amnesia, becomes more disconcerting when a
limping man who claims to be her brother kidnaps her.
Abducting her to the dump of a home occupied by her mother (a stunning
performance by Marylouise Burke), the victim of a stroke who talks
in gibberish (from which the play takes its name), Claire finds
terrorized by a psycho convict, his foul-mouthed hand-puppet, and
a tough female cop, who may not be what she seems. During an onslaught
of disturbing, but excruciatingly funny, confrontations, we become
privvy to the unraveling and understanding of a deeply personal and
$19.50 to $50. Three stars.
Who could imagine that two misfit singles who meet at
Mae West’s grave could build a future together, as their idol, her
formidable form and face audaciously invoked, is filtered through
a man and a woman’s obsession with the 20th century’s most infamous
star. With Dirty Blonde, Claudia Shear, the actress-author who
blew us away with her one-woman biographical play "Blown Sideways
Through Life," has returned to star in her newest play,
by James Lapine. And it may be the best new thing to happen all
She is aided by Bob Stillman and Kevin Chamberlin, who are hilarious
as others of importance and insignificance in the life and career
of the queen of the double entendre.
Shear has given us a tender and tentatively developed love story,
punctuated with sassy songs from West’s films, that is as
as was the woman who was hauled into court for her risque play
When the judge tells her, "Be careful, or I’ll charge you with
contempt," she retorts: "I’m trying hard not to show it."
212-460-5475. $12 to $45. Three stars.
So what that "Waiting in the Wings" is Noel
Coward’s most minor play — so minor and maligned that it has taken
40 years to cross the Atlantic. The glory of it is certainly not the
nonexistent plot, but rather the sterling cast that spends its time
hurling bitter and sweet Cowardisms about with relish and a flair
to be genuinely and heartbreakingly amusing. How could you miss the
chance to see such divas as the elegant Lauren Bacall, the patrician
Rosemary Harris, plus bracing Elizabeth Wilson, brittle Patricia
Connolly, and a riotously rigid Dana Ivey, as mildly eccentric
ex-ladies of the theater spending their dotage in a retirement home?
It’s an opportunity for some of our finest character actors to spew
oodles of wit, wisdom, and wrath to no greater effect than to give
themselves and us the pleasure of their company. When you see the
show, as you should, think about how much better the play would have
been if Bacall and Harris had switched roles.
Street, 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $25 to $70. Three stars.
Donald Margulies ("Collected Stories,"
Unseen") writes beautifully written, psychologically revealing
plays. And now Dinner With Friends can be added to the list.
In it, Karen (Lisa Emery) and Gabe (Matthew Arkin), a married couple
who globe-hop and write about food, discover at a dinner party they
are giving for their long-time best friends Beth (Julie White) and
Tom (Kevin Kilner), that Tom, who doesn’t show up, has left Beth for
another woman. Because they introduced Beth and Tom to each other,
Lisa and Gabe try to understand why their perfect partnership did
not serve as a model and an inspiration for Beth and Tom, who have
spent most of their married life being frustrated and wondering why
they can’t be more like Lisa and Gabe.
The action, which moves back and forth between the couples, brings
their individual and collective motives and regrets into sharp relief.
If in the end we all see the folly in trying to live up to others’
expectations and not being honest about their own, the play succeeds.
It does as humor is mixed with the insight of genuinely human
800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $30 to $55. Three stars.
Right off the top I have to say that rap is not my cup
of tea, but it pummels its way through The Bomb-itty of Errors,
a high-spirited hip-hop "add-rap-tation" of Shakespeare’s
"The Comedy of Errors" with youth-filled exuberance. It was
written and is being performed by a quartet of recent NYU male
each taking on the multiple role assignments and gender-bending
with the kind of "what’s goin’ down bro’" body language and
sassy innuendo-inflected vernacular that fuddy-duddys will find
to the ear and the eye.
At the performance I attended, the predominantly young audience
enthusiastically to the dizzying display of outre vulgarities and
funky over-the-top antics that propel this condensed story of two
sets of twins and their lovers. Director Andy Goldberg makes sure
that Shakespeare get no respect. Now that’s the rap.
$20 to $35. Two stars.
As cleverly conceived and terrifically performed by
Charlie Shanian and Shari Simpson, former members of the famed Gotham
City Improv, their revue Maybe Baby, It’s You may be the most
perfect date show going. It’s almost a laugh a minute as these two
play 11 couples in search of romance, commitment, mutual attraction,
and a life to share. Among the best (although all the skits are graced
with imaginative story twists and filled with great one-liners): A
nerd at a wedding does his best to attract a young woman with his
eccentric dancing; a klutzy masked bandit tries to seduce a sexy
in a fantasy bar; an ordinary guy finds himself having a date with
Medea; a glum gumshoe and a hot babe trade off sassy similes and
in a film-noir spoof; a couple celebrating their fifth anniversary
in a fancy restaurant end up wondering why; and divorced grandparents
meet and watch their grandson’s soccer game.
This is a first-rate class comedy revue that has more on its mind
and more to offer than many a dramatic play.
800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $35 to $47.50. Four stars.
Let’s put it this way: If you saw Jackie Mason in his
first one-man comedy show on Broadway, "The World According to
Me," you laughed until it hurt. When you went back two years later
to see "Jackie Mason: Brand New," you laughed, but it didn’t
hurt as much. So you went back two years later to "Politically
Incorrect," and you laughed with just a tinge of discomfort. If
you could still laugh two years later at "Love Thy Neighbor,"
you were not only a fan, but also a certified hypochondriac. Laughing
at the same jokes takes talent, as much talent as it takes to tell
them. Mason is talented, a genius, if he is also in his own words
For first timers, Mason’s assault on ethnic diversity, cultural
political chicanery, and consumer gullibility is often sharp, but
hardly as topical as it ought to be. If Mason still insists on harping
about Bill and Hillary, putting down the French and their bottled
water, and targeting tardy audience members (not as cheerfully done
as Dame Edna) for ridicule, he keeps first-timers and avid devotees
amused for two hours. When Mason is on target and not often enough
au courant, he is a satirist non-pareil — pardon the
252 West 45 Street, 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $55 & $65. Two
There is a clever conceit behind Becky Mode’s Fully
Committed, the frenetic one-actor play in which Mark Stelock plays
Sam, an unemployed actor currently employed to sit at the phones in
the bowels of a swank restaurant and take reservations. With non-stop,
unflagging patience, tact, fortitude, and savvy, Sam takes on the
Herculean task to fill the seemingly impossible number of requests
for dinner from a variety of the rich and famous. In particular, the
most demanding, self-centered, unconscionable elite and celebrated
members of society, politics and the entertainment world are all
the same night, the night when the restaurant is booked, or, as Sam
has to say, "fully committed."
That no one will take no for an answer, propels the ways and means
by which Sam cajoles the growing number of irate callers, often put
on extended hold, rearranges VIP seating, and even fixes a flood in
the ladies powder room. Did I mention that Stelock does all the voices
with lickity split changes of vocal tone and timbre? I feel compelled
to tell you that this play has developed into a huge hit, yet I found
it a bit tedious.
800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $45. Two stars.
— Simon Saltzman
The key: Four stars: Don’t miss;
Three stars: You won’t feel cheated;
Two stars: Maybe you should have stayed home;
One star: Don’t blame us.
Tonys for the revival and its star Bernadette Peters.
best new musical.
New dramatization with music.
Porter revival with verve.
of Broadway. Ticketmaster.
Miller. To March 5.
Gurney. Sundays & Mondays to May 8.
To March 4.
Newly-infused glam by Matt McGrath.
412 West 42.
Westside, 407 West 43.
450 West 42.
327 West 44.
night’s disco show. Ticketmaster.
By Arthur Laurents. To May 7. Preview.
Kavner, to February 20.
Cruz drama premiered at McCarter.
1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
— Simon Saltzman
through Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. For
listings call 800-755-4000 or 212-307-4100.
For current information on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, music,
and dance call NYC/On Stage at 212-768-1818, a 24-hour performing
arts hotline operated by the Theater Development Fund. The TKTS
half-price ticket booth at Times Square (Broadway & 47th) is open
daily, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. for evening performances; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
for Wednesday and Saturday matinees; and noon to closing for Sunday
matinees. The lower Manhattan booth, on the Mezzanine at 2 World Trade
Center, is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday
11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; closed Sunday. Cash or travelers’ checks only.
Visit TKTS at: http://www.tdf.org.
A Broadway ticket line at 212-302-4111 gives information on Broadway,
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