a theatre, film & pop culture review
1. Straight White Men (Off-Broadway): Because Young Jean Lee, the Korean-American playwright hailed by the Times as “one of the most adventurous new playwrights to emerge on the New York scene in the last decade,” doesn’t simply push boundaries — she cleverly dismantles, examines, ravages and then reconstructs them in a way you couldn’t even anticipate. Because she once again defies all our expectations by giving us a conventional father-son drama… and because the inevitable exploration of privilege and value will undoubtedly be anything but conventional.
2. Constellations (Broadway): Because the New York premiere (If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet) of this British playwright was pretty good — and because it starred a twitchy, bearded Jake Gyllenhaal in his American stage debut. Because, once again, Gyllenhaal (who, hey, was pretty good last time) will star in what the New Yorker declared a “singular astonishment” of a play when it premiered at London’s Royal Court in 2012. Because even if the premise — “a mind-bending romantic journey… that defies the boundaries of the world” (eye-rolling marketing speak) — doesn’t exactly sound inspired, it’s only 70 minutes long. Because 70 minutes of Jake Gyllenhaal can’t be all that bad, and because short theatre is the best theatre.
3. Rock Bottom (Off-Broadway): Because when you add songwriting duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, and Matt Ray to Bridget Everett’s outlandish, hysterical personality, you get what the New York Times calls “pure id on the rampage.” Because critics are comparing her to 70s Bette Midler. Because everyone loves titties.
4. Side Show (Broadway): Because it’s not every day that a musical about Siamese twins and other so-called freaks gets a second chance at Broadway. Because I saw Bill Condon’s production of Henry Krieger and Bill Russell’s newly improved musical at the Kennedy Center this summer and it’s lovely (even if the lyrics are still rough). Because I sang a song from it when I was a senior in high school, so, y’know, nostalgia. Because we all have our guilty pleasures (and because it coincides with American Horror Story‘s theme this year! Dual marketing efforts?).
5. Iowa (Off-Broadway): Because Jenny Schwartz has a weird, compelling way with language that doesn’t always translate (for critics). Because she’s always intrigued me on the page, and I still haven’t seen her on the stage yet. Because this one’s a musical! (composed by Todd Almond) about a mom finding love on Facebook and moving her “mildly deficient” teenager to Iowa so she can be with him. Because it’ll inevitably be as absurd as it sounds.
6. It’s Only a Play (Broadway): Because if you can’t have D-Rad, some Potter kid’s gotta represent on The Broadway and because this year it’s Rupert Grint. Because everyone’s favorite ginger/Weasley is making his Broadway debut alongside F. Murray Abraham, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing, Nathan Lane, and Megan Mullally. And because with that cast, we really don’t give a shit what play it is (Terrence McNally… oy).
7. A Delicate Balance (Broadway): Because if we can’t get a new Albee play (and when we do, they’re, um, not great), a revival of one of The Master’s classics is absolutely necessary. Because even though Pam MacKinnon is directing, that cast! Because Glenn Close, John Lithgow, Lindsay Duncan, Bob Balaban, Claire Higgins, and Martha Plimpton are gonna kill it.
8. Gloria (Off-Broadway): Because it’s written by super-heady, boundary-pushing Branden-Octoroon-Jacobs-Jenkins. Because this time it’s not about racial identity (or is it?), but about a bunch of wannabe-writers dreamin’ big whilst slaving away at a notorious Manhattan magazine. Because whenever BJJ’s got a new play, it’s my Most Highly Anticipated Play of the season — and it should be yours, too.
9. Honeymoon in Vegas (Broadway): Because Jason Robert Brown. Oh, you need more? Ok. Because, despite what you think of movie-cum-musicals (yawn), by all accounts (i.e., it’s critical reception at Paper Mill Playhouse last fall), this one is actually pretty great. Because it stars The Boss (Tony Danza) and Tony nominee Rob McClure, who we love.
10. King and I (Broadway): Because with Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai), the CASTING IS PERFECTION. Because director Bartlett Sher is employing Jerome Robbins’s original choreography (with Christopher Gatelli managing the “musical staging”). Because Catherine Zuber is designing the inevitably GORGEOUS costumes. Because despite all the yellow face history, this show still manages to charm with tuners like “Getting to Know You” and “Shall We Dance?” Because, in 2014, Rogers & Hammerstein are still the musical theatre writers to beat.
11. Skylight (Broadway): Because Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan star as lovers (eh?) and because Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot!) directs… but not because it’s penned by David Hare.
12. Punk Rock (Off-Broadway): Because Simon Stephens is a respected British playwright whose Olivier-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time will also be on Broadway this spring. And because I didn’t like Curious Incident, and everyone deserves a second chance.
13. The Nether (Off-Broadway): Because Jennifer Haley won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for this thriller about a virtual playground for fulfilling one’s darkest fantasies. Because it basically sounds like a lofty combo of A Nightmare on Elm Street (without the glove of knives — bummer) and Minority Report. Because yes and yes.
14. Hamilton (Off-Broadway): Because apparently (Bloody Bloody) Andrew Jackson and (All the Way with) LBJ weren’t enough presidential playas for the theatre community. Because the Tony Award-winning composer of the hip-hop flavored In the Heights and super-tweeter Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music, penned the book, and will star as the scrappy founding father. (Because it’s always a good idea for a single person to write music, lyrics, and book…?)
15. American Psycho (
Off-Broadway Broadway?): Because even though author Bret Easton Ellis can be a, um, real treat on Twitter, he wrote a pretty stellar book. Because why not turn the Wall-Street-Serial-Killer movie into a Wall-Street-Serial-Killer musical with music by Duncan Sheik? (Because the ’80s-cool music is pretty damn near perfect.) Because even though the Telegraph called it “heartless and pretentious,” RUPERT GOOLD directed it and if Rupert Goold only directs the heartless and pretentious (Enron!!!!!!!!!), than I don’t want anything else. Because Bejamin Sexypants Walker is gonna rock the Christian Bale crazy pants role. BECAUSE THIS SHIT (which was canceled at Second Stage) MIGHT GO DIRECTLY TO BROADWAY! Or at least the New York Post thinks so.
*I realize the season is already in full gear. (It took me at least two weeks to write this post.)