Bravo to Burnett

Fuddy Meers

Tough Blonde, Tender Love Story

For Moms and Dads: Bacall and Harris

Dinner With Friends

For Teenagers

`Maybe Baby, It’s You’

Jackie Mason: Still Laughing?

For the Young & Upward

On Broadway

Off-Broadway

Ticket Numbers

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

suffer

from a been-there-done-that feeling about giving a big box of

fat-enhancing

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

delight

— at the theater.

Top Of Page
Bravo to Burnett

<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

imagination.

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

cocktail

party.

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

regular

John Barrowman, the night I attended) for making 33 of the greatest

theater songs ever written sound new again.

Putting It Together, Barrymore Theater, 243 West 47

Street,

800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $30 to $80. To February 20. Two stars.

Top Of Page
Fuddy Meers

J. Cameron Smith, who was so brilliant as the

ever-so-chic

mercenary con-artist in "As Bees in Honey Drown," is getting

another chance to act out a fantastical existence in David

Lindsay-Abaire’s

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

herself

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

shocking mystery.

Fuddy Meers, Minetta Lane Theater, 18 Minetta Lane,

212-307-4100.

$19.50 to $50. Three stars.

Top Of Page
Tough Blonde, Tender Love Story

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,

co-conceived

by James Lapine. And it may be the best new thing to happen all

season.

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

irrepressible

as was the woman who was hauled into court for her risque play

"Sex."

When the judge tells her, "Be careful, or I’ll charge you with

contempt," she retorts: "I’m trying hard not to show it."

Dirty Blonde, New York Theater Workshop, 79 East 4 Street,

212-460-5475. $12 to $45. Three stars.

Top Of Page
For Moms and Dads: Bacall and Harris

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.

Waiting in the Wings, Walter Kerr Theater, 219 West 48

Street, 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $25 to $70. Three stars.

Top Of Page
Dinner With Friends

Donald Margulies ("Collected Stories,"

"Sight

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

behavior.

Dinner With Friends, Variety Arts Theater, 110 Third

Avenue,

800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $30 to $55. Three stars.

Top Of Page
For Teenagers

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

graduates,

each taking on the multiple role assignments and gender-bending

requirements

with the kind of "what’s goin’ down bro’" body language and

sassy innuendo-inflected vernacular that fuddy-duddys will find

painful

to the ear and the eye.

At the performance I attended, the predominantly young audience

responded

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.

The Bomb-itty of Errors, 45 Bleecker Street, 212-307-4100.

$20 to $35. Two stars.

Top Of Page
`Maybe Baby, It’s You’

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

senorita

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

metaphors

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.

Maybe Baby It’s You, SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street,

800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $35 to $47.50. Four stars.

Top Of Page
Jackie Mason: Still Laughing?

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

"too Jewish."

For first timers, Mason’s assault on ethnic diversity, cultural

differences,

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

French.

Jackie Mason: Much Ado About Everything, Golden Theater,

252 West 45 Street, 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $55 & $65. Two

stars.

Top Of Page
For the Young & Upward

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

demanding

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.

Fully Committed, Cherry Lane Theater, 38 Commerce Street,

800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $45. Two stars.

— Simon Saltzman

Top Of Page
On Broadway

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.

Amadeus. Two stars. Music Box, 239 West 45. By Peter

Schaffer.

Annie Get Your Gun. One star. Marquis, Broadway & 46.

Ticketmaster.

Tonys for the revival and its star Bernadette Peters.

Beauty and the Beast, Lunt-Fontanne, Broadway & 46.

Ticketmaster.

Cabaret. Three stars. Studio 54, 254 West 54,

800-432-7250.

Cats. Three stars. Winter Garden, 50 & Broadway.

Chicago. Four stars. Shubert, 225 West 44.

Dame Edna. Three stars. Booth, 222 West 45. "The Royal

Tour."

Footloose. Two stars. Richard Rodgers, 226 West 46.

Ticketmaster.

Fosse. Three stars. Broadhurst, 235 West 44. Tony-winner

for

best new musical.

James Joyce’s The Dead. Two stars. Belasco, 111 West 44.

New dramatization with music.

Jekyll & Hyde. Two stars. Plymouth, 236 West 45.

Kiss Me, Kate. Four stars. Martin Beck, 302 West 45. Cole

Porter revival with verve.

Les Miserables. Three stars. Imperial, 249 West 45.

Miss Saigon. Four stars. Broadway, 53 and Broadway.

Rent. Four stars. Nederlander, 208 West 41.

Ticketmaster.

Saturday Night Fever. Two stars. Minskoff, 45 Street west

of Broadway. Ticketmaster.

Squonk. Two stars. Helen Hayes, 240 West 44. Begins

February 8.

Swing!, St. James, 246 West 44.

The Lion King. Four stars. New Amsterdam, Broadway &

42, 212-307-4747.

The Phantom of the Opera. Three stars. Majestic, 247 West

44.

The Price. Three stars. Royale, 242 West 45. By Arthur

Miller. To March 5.

Wrong Mountain, Eugene O’Neill, 230 West 49. To February

5.

Top Of Page
Off-Broadway

Ancestral Voices, Mitzi Newhouse, Lincoln Center. By A.R.

Gurney. Sundays & Mondays to May 8.

Arms and the Man, Roundabout at Gramercy, 127 East 23,

212-777-4900. Previews.

Blue Man Group. Four stars. Astor Place, 434 Lafayette,

212-254-4370.

De La Guarda. One star. Daryl Roth, 20 Union Square East.

Defending the Light, Tribeca Center, 199 Chambers Square.

To March 4.

Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act! Stardust, Broadway

& 51.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch Jane Street Theater, 113 Jane.

Newly-infused glam by Matt McGrath.

Hundreds of Sisters & One Big Brother, Harold Clurman,

412 West 42.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Two stars.

Westside, 407 West 43.

Inappropriate, Theater Row, 424 West 42. Extended.

Joyful Noise, Lamb’s, 130 West 44. Begins February 11.

King John, American Place, 111 West 46. Shakespeare.

Late Nite Catechism, St. Luke’s Church, 308 West 46,

800-432-7250.

Monster, Kaufman, 534 West 42, 212-244-7529.

Naked Boys Singing, Actors’ Playhouse, 100 Seventh Avenue.

Our Sinatra, Blue Angel, 323 West 44.

Over the River & Through the Woods. Two stars. John

Houseman,

450 West 42.

Panache, Players, 115 Macdougal. Previews.

Perfect Crime, Duffy, 1553 Broadway.

Saturday Night, Second Stage, 307 West 43, 212-246-4422.

Sondheim.

Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know. Three stars.

Ibis,

327 West 44.

Small Potatoes, Houseman Studio A, 450 West 42.

Stomp. Four stars. Orpheum, Second Avenue at 8.

Ticketmaster.

The Alchemist, Classic Stage, 136 East 13. Previews.

The Countess, Samuel Beckett, 410 West 42.

Ticketmaster.

The Donkey Show, Club El Flamingo, 547 West 21. Midsummer

night’s disco show. Ticketmaster.

The Fantasticks, 181 Sullivan Street Playhouse.

Ticketmaster.

40th year.

The Teahouse of the August Moon, Playhouse 91, 316 East

91.

The Time of the Cuckoo, Mizi Newhouse, Lincoln Center.

By Arthur Laurents. To May 7. Preview.

The Vagina Monologues, Westside, 407 West 43. With Julie

Kavner, to February 20.

The Wild Party, City Center Stage, 131 West 55,

212-581-1212.

Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding. Three stars. St. Luke’s Church,

308

West 46.

Two Sisters and a Piano, Public, 425 Lafayette. The Nilo

Cruz drama premiered at McCarter.

Wit. Four stars. Union Square, 100 East 17.

Ticketmaster.

1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

— Simon Saltzman

Top Of Page
Ticket Numbers

Unless otherwise noted, all Broadway reservations can be made

through Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. For

Ticketmaster

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

same-day,

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,

selected Off-Broadway, and touring shows in other cities; calls can

be transferred to a ticket agent. Sponsored by Continental Airlines

and the New York Times.


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