Friday, July 23, 2004

Miscellaneous: Theater

No trip to NYC is complete without taking in some live performances. I mean the professional kind, not just the street theater that’s constantly erupting in front of you on the subway. Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve seen on this trip:

The Musical of Musicals: The Musical! The writers of this spoof take one simple, melodramatic premise (the old “You must pay the rent!/I can’t pay the rent!” chestnut that I still perform to this day using only a folded sheet of paper as a prop) and offer five interpretations in the styles of different composers. Rodgers & Hammerstein, Steven Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kander & Ebb all take their lumps. There’s some deft parody here, as well as some gleefully awful puns (“A funny thing happened on the way to decorum”) that add to the merriment. A show that actually gets funnier as it goes along.

Bug. One review calls Tracy Letts’ award-winning play “a sensational noir thriller.” The play’s website touts it as “sci-fi mix(ed) with a touch of terror and a dash of comedy.” Neither description works for me. All I can say is that this play has literally haunted my dreams since I saw it. In a dingy Oklahoma City motel room, a crack-smoking waitress with a husband due out of jail takes up with a spooky drifter. Their relationship progresses into Sam Shepard terrain, then takes a hairpin turn into conspiracy theory and paranoia. The result is an intense, harrowing experience. The two lead performances by Paul Sparks and especially Shannon Cochran (so memorable as the little girl’s mother in THE RING) are astonishing. Hands down the highlight of this trip. Unless you count seeing a phalanx of NYPD officers drag a guy out of the Times Square subway station in handcuffs.

The Rejection Show. A monthly showcase of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE sketches, TV pilots and New Yorker cartoons that, for one reason or another, were passed on by the powers that be. Most of them are as funny as what did make the grade, and you can see them all for only five bucks.