Tuesday, November 14, 2006

You Read It Here First?

I just got the schedule for Barksdale’s Hanover Tavern Shows for next year. Here’s the lineup:

Smoke on the Mountain: Feb. 23 – Apr. 29
The Odd Couple: May 18 – Aug. 5
Deathtrap: Sept. 7 – Oct. 21
Dames at Sea: Nov. 16 – Jan 20, 2008

My initial impressions: a) excited about "Smoke." I haven’t seen a production of it since the Mill’s triumphant production years ago (yes, I’m biased!), 2) wary of "The Odd Couple." My recollection is that this is not a play that has aged so well. The recent Broadway production with Broderick and Lane did not get very favorable reviews, if I remember correctly. III) Think both "Deathtrap" and "Dames" could be great, totally depending on the casts. I don’t have a particular affection for either of the scripts but the right people involved – like with most shows – can make for some excellent fun.

12 comments:

Andrew Hamm said...

David,

My students at Henrico high just read The Odd Couple and found it very funny. It doesn't have to be dated, though a lazy production potboiler-style is likely to come out that way.

Unlike Hair, The Odd Couple is not yet a guaranteed museum piece.

Frank Creasy said...

I expect the Tavern musicals will be box office gold, and DEATHTRAP I think can be really outstanding in the right hands and could be a sleeper hit if managed well.

I understand the ambivalence about ODD COUPLE, but personally I love Neil Simon and have felt very comfortable when I've had the good fortune to do a Simon piece like BAREFOOT (Bruce? Bruce? Hello, Harry Pepper calling again!) Look, I know some folks who felt that was an old warhorse they should have passed over. All in all, it turned out fairly well I think. Not that I'm biased, but you could get a second opinion...Joe Pabst, Joy Williams, Tony Foley? Any thoughts folks?

But I think the real trick is to just throw away the ghosts, whether they be Art Carney, Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Tony Randell or Jack Klugman and just read it FRESH. Think what Neil (oh, yes, we're on a first-name basis you know!) was thinking when he wrote the characters. If you don't bring the force of your own personality to bear on the roles, you've got a good chance of sucking big-time. I love doing comedy but you have to be freakin' FEARLESS, and as Ringo said, you know it don't come easy. The loins must be pre-girded.

The worst thing in the world is to be a pale impression of someone else's take on the character. Be unique and fresh and you can make it sing - go another route and watch the audience cringe as you hit sour notes. The familiarity of Simon can fill some seats, but this choice, though, is maybe riskier than one might think. Still, they needed a bankable comedy for the season, so you can't really shake your head at it and say "What were they THINKING!?"

Dave T said...

I thought "Barefoot" was very fun and refreshing, thanks to a talented cast that breathed some life into a script that was pretty dated. I guess that production's success should make me feel less wary of "Odd Couple."

I can't help but wonder who'll end up being Oscar and Felix. Tony Foley and Matt Beyer? Joe Pabst and Steve Perigard? Andy Nagraj and Thomas Nowlin? Derek Phipps and Paul Deiss?

It's probably wrong to even speculate since so much will depend on chemistry and I'm certainly no casting director. Still, it's kind of fun to think about...

oneeyeddog said...

Oh I love casting shows! I'm going with Larry Cook for Felix. I'll get back to you on Oscar.

Jacquie O. said...

I think they should do it with women! Come on Oneeye...you and I would be PERFECT (run for your lives)! And YESSSS...you know I would be Felix! :p

amyberlin said...

There is a female version! It's not as good as the original, but still pretty amusing. I saw it starring Rita Moreno and Sally Struthers -- must have been over 20 years ago.

Jacquie O. said...

Now THAT is an ODD pairing! Kinda scary actually!

Andrew Hamm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Hamm said...

Rita Moreno + Sally Struthers = shudder.

Count me in the crowd that loves playing Simon. He writes for actors so well; his tempo-rhythms make it possible (I won't quite say easy) for anyone to be funny. I've only done two of his shows (The Good Doctor, Brighton Beach Memoirs), but I'd love to do more.

I actually almost got cast as Eugene in Broadway Bound in NoVa once, but the director said I wasn't Jewish enough. I think he was just prejudiced by my non-kosher surname.

Frank Creasy said...

Not Jewish enough, Andrew? You should have gone by your middle name - Tevya.

Well, I'm decidedly Gentile myself, but I have a natural advantage: I'm bald. That automatically makes me seem more Jewish!

Tits McGee said...

Simon is perfect for Tavern Theatre octogenarians. But I don't find Simon either relevant or entertaining in this century. Yes, he represents an important part of theatrical development in the U.S., but I find his plays to be nothing more than a exercise in trivial characters in trivial situations telling mildly amusing stories. But then, I suppose in 30 years someone like me will make the same complaints about Steven Dietz and Craig Lucas.

Frank Creasy said...

While I may not agree with Tits, I have to respect the opinion of a comic talent that can hold up to the likes of Will Ferrell!

Neil Simon seems more polarizing of late than you'd expect from such an icon...but then, he didn't write plays to be produced fifty years from the opening performance, nor did he try to do anything profound. He just wanted to make people laugh. Personally, I enjoy performing his work more than seeing it.

My personal fave is "Laughter on the 23rd Floor", which R.E.T. did as a reading a few years back (and okay, I was in it, but it's a flat out hilarious script!) Unfortunately, the "F" word appears about 57 times, so it's unlikely to pop up again soon in front of that aforementioned octogenarian sect. Damn shame.