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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Broadway Shows That Everyone Liked But Me

I keep getting comp tickets to Broadway shows, courtesy of my delightful and generous friend Teresa, and I keep disliking them (either vaguely or acutely). I've left, on all three occasions in question, with such an overwhelming feeling of eh that I haven't even felt compelled to write a review of any of them. But here they are, if anybody is keeping track.

Of all the three, I disliked this one the least. In fact, I liked much about it and even liked the whole show at certain points, from certain angles. It was a very pretty play - pretty is the only word I can find to describe it. A lot of interesting ideas about God and energy and violence and consequences run through the play like a pretty piece of ribbon that ties up quite nicely at the end. It makes you consider, and consider ideas that are worth considering at that. So what was my trouble? Underdone character development, plain and simple. None of the characters felt like real characters to me - rather, they were devices that pushed forward the play's philosophical musings. I never felt connected to any of them, they had no texture or depth. I couldn't tell you a thing about them other than what they said and did in front of me on stage. A friend of mine told me she loved the character of the young, stupid soldier because he was exactly like every boy she ever knew who became a soldier. Perhaps this was the problem: he was so much every soldier that he was no longer an individual, more a symbol than a fleshed-out person. And while symbolic characters are often fine, important even, do you really need another one in a play with a talking spirit tiger? What's more, the same could be said of all of the characters. All of them made bold and provocative statements about spirituality, morality, and free will. None of them really filled the shoes they stood in.

I enjoyed Good People as I watched it, but disliked it so much once it was over I actually became a bit resentful of it. Resentful of how it lectured to me, of how it beat me over the head for two hours with a concept I got in the first two minutes of the play. Unlike Terry Teachout, I disliked this play not because of the "crude deck-stacking" in favor of the maligned underclass, but because it was insufferable even-handed. THIS IS A COMPLICATED ISSUE! WITH NO EASY ANSWERS! It seemed to scream at me at every turn. There were multiple scenes where I could find no earthly reason why the two people on stage were still talking to each other, except that Lindsay-Abaire had more to say about class dynamics.

I'm more befuddled by the overwhelmingly positive reviews of this baby than any of the others. Really? Really?? Because all I saw was a markedly lackluster theatrical event. Everything about it seemed both static and staid, as if the musical were even bored with itself.


  1. Of the three, the only one I've seen is 'Bengal Tiger', and that was in LA (I need a friend Teresa with an endless supply of comps). I agree with you. I wanted to like it more than I actually liked it. I do however, recommend 'By the Way, Meet Vera Stark' at 2nd Stage if you can find someone to comp you or get you a good discount.

  2. That's exactly how I felt - I wanted to like it more than I did. And Vera Stark is at the top of my list of shows to see! I wanted to make it to the Works by Women meetup but it just didn't work out. Was it good?

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