Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thoughts on some Off-(and Off-Off) Broadway plays

Somehow, even though I'm a bit cash poor, this became a three show week.  Of course, perhaps this is why I'm cash poor.  Moving on.  Also, I am TIRED.  Tonight is my second go-round at Horton Foote's The Old Friends (a friend of a friend gave me a ticket), so I know I'll enjoy myself there.  Tuesday night, I saw a dear friend in a piece he'd been telling me about for quite a while, and last night I went to the second preview of Donald Margulies' The Model Apartment at 59E59.  I'll just offer some thoughts, since I'm TIRED and also because of my 'little to no perspective' thing.

When my dear friend described his dear friend Johnna Adams' play Lickspittles, Buttonholers and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens to me, I thought it sounded delightful.  Then, when he got cast in the Boomerang Theatre Company's production of it, I knew I must go.  Lickspittles is an audacious comedy with surprising layers.  One conceit of the play is that different characters speak in different poetic forms throughout.  The lead characters, also known as the butt-kisser, blowhard and, uh, go-between, speak in Alexandrine rhyming couplets.  Another character speaks in sestinas, another in sonnets (with an absolutely riotous staging device), plus there is haiku, limerick, free verse, and I'm sure other forms I'm forgetting.  I was tremendously impressed with the writing, how all these language forms and plot machinations were kept aloft. I mean, this is some of the boldest writing I've heard in years.  I thought the cast was first-rate (and if I preferred the men to the women, I'm sure it's more that I love my dear friend so much, his co-horts just caught my fancy more) and the direction was quite good.  The costumes were terrific, and the sound design was also very good.  I will admit that I thought the play was a little long at two hours, twenty minutes, though my extreme tiredness may have had something to do with that.  I also admit that my extreme tiredness may have contributed to my being a tad confused about all of the whirling machinations at certain points.  I just couldn't keep up.  But I definitely think that was me.  If you want to see an ingenious play, smart beyond belief, and a cast having a heck of a lot of fun, hie thee to Lickspittles, Buttonholers and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens.  [I may have borrowed that production photo from the internet.  I may be disgruntled if forced to remove it, but will of course do so, if I must.]

Last night, I was fortunate to receive a ticket to the second preview of Donald Margulies' The Model Apartment, produced by Primary Stages at 59E59.  Since it's so early in the run, and they're still working, I'll only say a few things.  I've never seen this play before and it has been years since I read it, but I am, as a rule, a huge fan of Donald and his writing, so I went in predisposed to love it.  Actually, now that I think about it, I'll only say one thing:  this play completely devastated me.  In the best theatrical way.  I was a complete and utter mess by the end.  Somewhere, somehow, I was just profoundly moved by the visceral rage, pain, guilt, regret, love...everything.  There is so much in this 80-minute play, I can hardly describe it.  And I'm close to crying again as I try to.  Beginning as a bittersweet and tender comedy about a long-married couple who finally arrive in Florida to begin their retirement, the early scenes in no way prepared me for the vitriolic ride I would be taken on once their adult, mentally ill daughter arrives.  There is still humor and tenderness, but there's also discomfort and brutality.  I am in awe of Donald getting so much emotion on the page - in other hands, this subject matter and production could've gone so wrong very quickly.  But the team assembled is exceptional and already in wonderous shape for just a second preview.  I feel as if I want to go back later in the run to see how the show has tightened, but part of me wants to leave this powerful memory alone.  I don't know.   I'll have to think about it.  But, please, you should go see The Model Apartment.  It's so worth it.


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