Plays and Prestidigitation #7 opens tonight!

I’ve been a very bad blogger.  I’ve seen several Broadway shows and have several restaurant reviews to post but my energies have been taken by the production at Polaris North studios that opens tonight.  We had tech/dress ;last night and it plays Friday and Saturday at 7 and Sunday at 3.

It is a collection of short plays (one of them mine) based on the theme of the lack of political correctness in our discourse today.  You can guess at one of the targets but it is more than that.  The plays were all sourced from members of Polaris North (check them out at http://www.PolarisNorth.org).

I host and perform magic tricks between each play to add additional entertainment and cover the scene changes going on behind me.  I also do all the marketing, program, stage manage, coordinate the evening and provide the reception with the very generous help of many members of the evening.  For this reception I bought a movie style popcorn popper so it should be a lot of fun.

If you are in the NYC area we would love to see you there.  Meanwhile, I’ll try to get back on the blogging routine soon!

LOGO with words

As always you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

Am I entering a post-critic age?

Before I moved to New York I would often vacation here, seeing several shows in a short period, usually a weekend.  I would fly in on a Friday morning, see a Friday Evening, Saturday Matinee, Saturday Evening (often an off-Broadway show starting at 10 or 11 PM Saturday night), a Sunday Matinee, then catch a flight home.  On those occasions my show going choices were defined by what was playing and what I could get a ticket to on a particular trip.  I saw many memorable shows but missed a great deal as well.

When I moved to The Big Apple in 1998 my choices were broader as I had a year round access to NY theater.  I started a spreadsheet (seems my answer to most things) that recorded the theater critics response to NY shows and, if I saw them, mine as well.  By comparing and tracking this I found that many times my opinions came close to the New York Times critics (yes, by that time Ben Brantley was the primary NYT critic).

As time went on, I stopped tracking and that chore was recently taken up by various online resources like Playbill, Theatremania and my favorite, www.didhelikeit.com by Ken Davenport.  But the closer I watch (or the more I age) I have discovered that my opinions are less simpatico with any of the critics.  For instance, Ben Brantley trashed the current Sam Gold production of The Glass Menagerie that I considered brilliant and necessary to calcified productions of that chestnut.

I know there are new internet options of crowd critics where every audience member can propagate their opinion even well before official opening night.  While a scourge to producers it is simply exhausting to me.  Hard enough to keep up with a dozen or so legit theater reviewers than to follow and sort through the thousand snarky nerds empowered by a blog (hey, I resemble that remark!).

So now I see what I want, defined more by what I found on discount sites I use than any particular strategy.  I see as much as I can get away with without totally bankrupting me and when I have time and energy to see new shows.  It has been wonderful and I report them here.  But don’t listen to me.  Just one old white guy’s opinion.

Ben Brantley

As usual you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com or on Twitter @walterthinnes

Come From Away

There are some shows that I yearn for and others that I shudder at.  And then there are others that sound like a perfectly nice but not impactful evening at the theater.  Years ago that is how I was blown away by Having Our Say, that turned out to be exceptional.  This year that title belongs to Come From Away.

Based on the 9/11/01 clearing of all air traffic in reaction to the attack, it tells the story of little Gander, Newfoundland which happened to have a huge airfield little used since jets eliminated the need for propeller plans to refuel just before flying across the Atlantic.  So when planes were quickly grounded, this was the perfect place to hold 7,000 passengers in a town of just 9,000.  How cute, I thought.  We’ll get to see hospitable Canadians care for these visitors and it will be sweet.  How nice.

Come From Away is so much more than that, packing an emotional punch that was quite unexpected.  First, I was stunned by how visceral the 9/11 punch was in the short references in the play.  Even as a New Yorker, I thought I had that under control.  Nope, not so much.

But then seeing a cast of twelve essentially playing 16,000 different roles (OK not quite) was absolutely amazing.  This show has had multiple out of town tryouts and the polish shows.  Seamlessly weaving these tales and characters from the town and from away the cast, director, band and especially the choreographer do a great job.

I’m considering moving to Canada now that I have seen this, but not quite as remote a place as Gander.  Go see this show!

come from away

As always you can find more on http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

Significant Other on Broadway

Significant other has transferred to Broadway from the earlier run at Roundabout.  Up and bursting into the big leagues Joshua Harmon has written quite the vehicle for actor Gideon Glick.  The production is expertly acted and well mounted on the stage of the Booth Theatre, my favorite Broadway venue.  The story of a gay man who cannot quite find his soulmate watches his straight girl friend posse slip away to marriages one by one until he finds himself alone with his best friend and without a significant other.

It is a funny script which kept me interest the entire night and production values are high. I left unsatisfied, in ways I cannot quite adequately describe.  I think the self-pitying main character kept cycling through the same routine and never found a way out, which is I guess the point of the play.  However, spending the evening with such a miserable character who cannot break free was not satisfying.  It was pointed out to me that I dearly love Long Days Journey into Night which features four such miserable creatures for a far longer evening.  My answer is that they are making each other miserable while the lead character in the play does it all by his lonesome.  Misery loves company.

bway-significant-other

As always you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

A pretty darn good Comet

Recently took in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway.  It has received raves from the critics and word of mouth and I largely, but not entirely agree.

The transformation of the Imperial Theatre is astonishing.  Bold and eye popping it tickles the brain and brings you into an immersive environment that defies you to think you are in a Broadway venue.  The director has used this environment perfectly with the action wending its ways through the many passageways and remaining theatre aisles.  There have been half hearted attempts at this sort of thing over the years but this is truly exceptional.  Kudos to the director and creative team.

Josh Groban is very good, though with a limited role in the story.  Still, he is onstage (or on set) much of the time, plays several instruments and is a welcome presence.  Someday I really want to see Dave Molloy (the creator and writer of this piece) in the role he wrote for himself, but I was very much impressed with Groban’s Broadway debut.

Before this show I would have scoffed if you told me that an accordion heavy score would work on Broadway but this music is tremendous.  I can hardly wait to acquire the cast album.  It deserves a closer listen.

For the entire first act, every note, every move, I was on the edge of my seat leaning into to the action, the atmosphere, everything.  I was ready to rubber stamp the critics I have heard proclaim the work better than Hamilton.  Until after the intermission.  The second half is not bad but it is far short of the first half.  There is no problem getting wistful and reflective, but I felt the energy drain from the first act locomotive with little emotional pay off.  I am not a Broadway playwright nor do I have half the chops that this writer and director delivered.  But I do have an opinion, and I wish they had removed the interval, chopped thirty percent off the second half and drove this puppy through to the end.

But is it still highly, definitely worth seeing and worth staying through to the end.  Interested after you see it if you agree with what I experienced.  Most people apparently did not.

great-comet

As usual you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com or on Twitter @walterthinnes