Friday, February 22, 2008

Rainy Day Reading

I always look forward to the arrival of the latest New Yorker. I don’t think there has ever been an issue I’ve read through that hasn’t had something fantastic in it: a great piece of fiction, a particularly insightful review, a hilarious cartoon. This week includes an extended review of the Kathleen Turner-directed production of “Crimes of the Heart.” I practically seethe with envy when I read a review like this. Given that most of my Style reviews are 300 to 600 words long, I can scarcely imagine having almost 1500 words to expound. (Notice, however, that even with all those words, the set and lighting design get summed up in a sentence. Poor techies can’t catch a break, even on Broadway!)

Hilton Als is an eloquent, intelligent critic. You might not agree with what he says but I think he does a great job saying what he thinks. And for me, the best thing about him is he isn’t impressed by much. I think he has a healthy appreciation of good theater (and art and movies – check out his blog if you want more of his thoughts) but he isn’t exactly kind to Beth Henley in his piece. While it’s a bit harsh, I also think it’s right on target. And whether it’s won a Pulitzer or not, I think you have to evaluate something honestly on its merits.

Speaking of merits – or lack of them – here’s the first thing I’ve read about Clay Aiken and his stint in “Spamalot.” I read somewhere else that the singer – who no one can deny has got awesome pipes – didn’t really “get it” when he watched the Monty Python movies. Is it any wonder then, that he doesn’t come across as quite silly enough?

And a final item that may be extremely silly – or a sublime surpise – is the high-jacking of a concept (or maybe just a title?) from an old classic for the planned film Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Undead. I have to admit that the title alone makes me smile.


JB said...

ooo - are they Zombies? That would be hilarious!!!Love that play.

catherine said...

just wanted to mention the new thread over at the Theatre IV it's ALL about production and how much they rock! we love our "techies!"

Sara Marsden said...

Hey Cath -

You left out the "t"


Check it out! Oh, and also check out Doubt (if you can get a seat).

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Interesting that when you saw Clay Aiken in Spamalot you didn't think he was silly enough. I saw him last week and thought he was wonderfully silly. Apparently the reviewer from the Associated Press thought so as well. What was it about his performance that you didn't like?

Dave T said...

I should have been clearer -- I didn't see Mr. Aiken in "Spamalot;" my comment came purely in response to the review.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave! I saw Clay in Spamalot and thought he was fantastic! Here's another review of Clay in Spamalot from the AP Drama Critic, Michael Kuchwara:

Let's clear things up right away: Clay Aiken can handle supremely silly.

That's not an inconsiderable talent when you are appearing in something as daffy as "Monty Python's Spamalot," the madcap medieval musical that has just added the "American Idol" alum to its cast.

We knew Aiken could sing. "Idol," television's favorite trial-by-fire, proved that. So it was only natural that Broadway, eager for new faces that might sell tickets, would call — just as it did for Fantasia, Frenchie Davis, Constantine Maroulis and others from "Idol."

But don't go expecting a star turn. Aiken is a team player — and that's meant as a compliment. The ingratiating performer fits seamlessly into the extended high jinks of "Spamalot," which has been running at the Shubert Theatre since March 2005.

The guy gets the goofy humor that is the Python trademark and goes with the flow, most prominently when he is portraying the perpetually petrified Sir Robin. It's one of three roles he plays in the musical.

Aiken also exudes the physical buffoonery that underlines the cartoonlike nature of the characters and their quest to find the Holy Grail. He radiates a delightful benign bewilderment. What's more, for someone born and raised in North Carolina, Aiken does a credible British accent.

Dave T said...

Hey, speaking of "Idol" and theater: what about semi-local boy Colton Berry being voted off last night? I don't know when the Staunton native will return home, but I expect some local theater could give quite a boost to ticket sales if they tried to get him in their next musical. Is "Guys and Dolls" cast at Barksdale yet?

Andrew Hamm said...

Seriously, Dave. One of the many many many ways in which I hope and pray Richmond doesn't turn into Broadway South is in casting flavor-of-the-month singers in classic musicals to pump up ticket sales. At least make him audition with the rest of us unwashed slobs.

(Let's see, who can Richmond Shakespeare get to play Hamlet or Lear... Crap, I can't help it!!)

Thespis' Little Helper said...

Hahaha...perhaps Mr. Aiken can tackle Lear...

Clay Aiken as Sky Masterson? Well...perhaps Sarah Brown. That I would pay to see.

No...really...I would love to hear Mr. Aiken sing "If I Were a Bell."